February 21, 2021 – As a film critic, I think it is often best to go into a film with no expectations about what I am about to see, which means avoiding advance publicity. In this particular case, watching “The Wolf House” (La Casa Lobo) — this strategy backfired. I was disturbed and confused by the experience.
It wasn't until I read the Wikipedia article about the isolated Chilean German enclave of Colonia Dignidad (“Dignity Colony”) that I understood what I had witnessed. According to Wikipedia, “Colonia Dignidad's longest continuous leader, Paul Schäfer, arrived in the colony in 1961. Schäfer was a fugitive, accused of child molestation in West Germany. The organization he led in Chile was described, alternatively, as a cult ... investigations ... uncovered a history of criminal activity in the enclave, including child sexual abuse.”
Suffice it to say that The Wolf House is not an animated movie suitable for children to see. It is more like a child's nightmare of living in a haunted house with even worse things outside the house keeping you from going outside.
María, a young girl living in an isolated German colony in Chile, escapes and finds shelter in a remote house in the woods. Wolves outside the house make it unsafe to go outdoors. The story is told as propaganda by those in charge of the German colony, who claim that María fled the colony because she was lazy.
Almost the entire story happens inside this house, occupied by María and two pigs, she calls Pedro and Ana. This would be pretty boring except that María, Pedro, Ana, and the house itself keep mutating and transforming in surrealistic ways. Stop motion animation and hand-drawn visuals combine to form a continuously changing landscape inside the house.
At times, María, Pedro and Ana appear as paintings on the wall that flow down onto the floor and become solid. The paper mache-like figures are constantly changing, as is the house itself. Pedro and Ana change from pigs to people. At times, they appear as heads without bodies. At other times their hands, arms, legs and feet detach from their bodies and move about on their own.
The surrealistic artwork of this film is a bit reminiscent of the art of Salvador Dali. The story creeped me out because of the disembodied voice of the Wolf who speaks to the occupants of the house, at times through a TV set, trying to lure them outside, or to let him in. There are references here to the story of the wolf and the three little pigs. This also reminded me that Adolf Hitler's first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II was called the “Wolf's Lair.”
The film also reportedly has references to Chilean rule under General Augusto Pinochet (1973 to 1990). Pinochet provided shelter to Nazi war criminals, and the Chilean Nazis had a hand in torturing Pinochet's political enemies. The Wolf, the Nazis and the German Colony are seemingly all lumped together in this story.
Things get so bad inside the house that María hopes the Wolf will huff and puff and blow down the door to rescue her. The makers of the propaganda film conclude that no matter how bad María's life was in the colony, it was worse on the outside — that there is no escape. The propagandists thank the government for its support — a line that is said to throw major shade at Pinochet and his followers.
When I saw this film last night, it made no sense to me, but it does now. However, that does not improve my memory of the experience. Had I gone into this film mentally prepared for this nightmarish depiction of a doomed existence of betrayal and abuse, it would not have been so bad, but I think it would still be a downer. I probably would have avoided this film altogether.
The story still sucks, and I care little for horror films anyway, but the imaginative artistry of the animation cannot be denied. This film rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.