The international flavour of this year’s FILM4 FrightFest is underpinned by a historic moment, as the fifteenth installment of the festival features the first Venezuelan film to screen at the festival – Alejandro Hidalgo’s The House at the End of Time.

But no sooner will FrightFesters be lost in a house with a difference, than FrightFest’s gaze turns north and follows the Blood Moon towards Jeremy Wooding’s genre mash up of comedy, horror and the western.

Both The House at the End of Time and Blood Moon possess a distinct sense of feeling, and serve as a testament to the importance of the creative voice even within the shadow of genre. But these are two films that paint a picture of horror in the Americas.

In an orderly fashion we begin in the present day as Alejandro Hidalgo takes us on a guided tour of a house he discovered at the end of time.

Why a career in filmmaking? Was there that one inspirational moment?

Cinema has given me extraordinary moments in my life. Each character; each story; each tear and each smile made me feel more alive than ever. Those emotions, which I’ve only experienced before the big screen were the inspiration to share my stories – my own personal truths. I want the audience to leave the theatre emotionally and intellectually satisfied after watching my films, saying, “Life is just like that”, even if the story is a work of fantasy.

Film is art, philosophy and entertainment. It is therefore a necessity for humanity to both enjoy and reflect upon many subjects. A film can change a person’s life, and as a filmmaker, I want to be able to put my little grain of sand in people’s lives, smiles, experiences, tears and emotions when they watch my movies.

Can you remember the moment when you first discovered horror and/or genre cinema?

Yes, but I don’t remember the name of the specific film. I only remember I was four or five years old and I was alone in my room watching a horror film. My mom was in the kitchen, and I remember I was so scared that I cried out in panic. My mom rushed to my room and, realizing it had been the film she tried to turn the TV off. I didn’t let her though, because for all my fear, I wanted to know how the movie was going to end. That’s why this is one of my favorite genres, because it connects us with a very basic, primitive and intense emotions, and makes us feel totally alive.

The House at the End of Time is your feature debut – how did the experience compare to your expectations, and what were the challenges and surprises?

The House at the End of Time was a very difficult project, because it was challenging to find financing, but above all, writing the screenplay. My motto while making the film was always to make the best with what God has given you, and so that’s what we did. The main goal was for the film to strike a chord with the audience, and it was well received in Venezuela where it was a box office success. It is the most watched horror film in Venezuela ahead of The Exorcist, Sixth Sense, The Others and A Nightmare on Elm Street. But it’s also the most successful Venezuelan film that has ever been shown in Colombia.

When I watch the film I obviously find things I would’ve liked to have worked better, but we had to adapt to production difficulties to finish the project successfully, and in the best way possible. I think the main goal of reaching our audience was wholly achieved, and now the goal is to reach international audiences, both at festivals and premieres.

One of the greatest surprises I’ve experienced with this film is when I went to watch the film with the composer. When the film ended the audience exploded into a standing ovation – not realizing we were there. It was one of the most emotional moments in my life.

When I speak with filmmakers they often say that when they write they direct, meaning part of their job has already been done when they step onto the set. For you personally how do the writing and directing processes inform one another?

Every screenwriter is the main director of a film, because they’re the ones who give life to the story, to its conflicts and its characters. The screenwriters direct a film that is being told and developed both on paper and in the world of imagination. The true role of the director is to translate that story to reality. Many scenes work perfectly as they were written, but then sometimes on set they have to be modified.

My work as a screenwriter allows me to know the essence of the characters and their psyche, as well as preview the whole aesthetic, artistic and photographic concept of the film. In this aspect being the screenwriter of a film provides me an even better footing to direct it.

The House at the End of Time

It is often said that editing is the best training for a filmmaker. Whilst having spoken about the relationship between the process of writing and directing, how did the editing of The House at the End of Time shape your perspective of the writing and directing for future films?

In my case, the editing process also reflected the guidelines of the screenplay. My perspective of writing and directing hasn’t really changed after the film was edited. I’ve always seen the editing as part of the final screenwriting process. The screenplay is only finished when the film has been edited, and that’s why the editing always responded to the need for keeping the dramatic rhythm present in the screenplay. Many filmmaker friends tell me that the first edited version of their films runs for around three to four hours. In our case, we were so clear about the film that we succeeded in making the first cut the same length as the screenplay – one hundred pages, which roughly translates to one hundred minutes.

Editing allows us to take the best moments from the whole shoot and polish them to adapt the screenplay, as well as even finding more suitable ways to tell the story. During this process we even dropped some scenes, which were important for the screenplay, because upon watching the film they merely delayed the narrative.

What was the genesis of The House at the End of Time?

The film is based on some themes that fascinate me – particularly the quest of mankind to understand their origin and change their fate. It’s all developed through a story filled with universal emotions and feelings, such as fraternal and family love – this pure love that can transcend the boundaries of time and space.

At the same time I wanted to build a story adapted to the conventions of horror and suspense genres. Nevertheless, I wanted to achieve this through mind games and changes in the perspectives of the characters, and not through the use of resources such as gore and violence. The intention was always to please the audience emotionally and intellectually. I must confess that the first thing I thought of to start the process of writing the film was the basic premise, which is to say the main plot twist.

There is a strong tonal shift early in film with the kids out playing, which recalls the idea of offsetting darkness with a presence of light. What are your thoughts on this observation and the general importance to not let a film or story be overwhelmed by a single aspect?

I think it’s necessary to combine genres on the big screen, but always giving a greater weight to the main genre of the film. Creating these moments of tenderness between brothers and friends allows the development of humane characters, with personalities and voices of their own. I think all the stories have already been told, but not all the characters have been created. So the characters are always unique.

These moments of kindness are not usually related to the horror genre. Rather they are an opportunity for the audience to develop empathy for the characters, and at the same time heighten the suspense in the tense scenes. I think one of the main weaknesses of this genre is that in many of the stories, the horror is an external phenomenon, and the characters lack a soul and internal conflicts. The audience is therefore not empathic towards them, and in the end we may not even care if the characters survive the danger because deep down, we don’t value them.

From the outset of The House at the End of Time music is a character in its own right. How conscious were you of the role the music would play whilst writing and shooting, and using the music to echo the content of the imagery?

The musical concept was given considerable importance from the start of the writing process. Yoncarlos Medina is the composer and arranger of all the musical pieces. During the pre-production we were evaluating many musical references from other films. Finally we settled for a very classic concept of the genre, with orchestral sounds and some electronic moments. The idea was for the music to complement and increase the emotions – not to play separate from the film. We checked the film second by second to create pieces that could generate the intended effects, such as supporting feelings of dread and anxiety or connecting with a particular character – even with the mystery of the house itself.

Within the film the subject of the distinction between the authenticity of faith and the falseness of the supernatural arises. It has always seemed a contradiction to me how some individuals separate the two?

I personally think that faith and science are not subjects that should be studied separately. Science has certainly explained many natural phenomena and allowed us to progress technologically. Nevertheless neither science nor religion have been able to demonstrate the origin of the universe, and that’s why the supernatural phenomenon happening in the house is ambivalent. It could be a phenomenon related with quantum physics or perhaps with a portal connecting to a spiritual dimension.

I think faith should always exist though, because it’s what gives meaning and relevance to our lives. Believing in something gives the human being a sense of purpose, a raison d’etre and an objective. When Dulce returns home she’s hopeless, and her belief is broken. But when she reconciles with her faith, she finds the courage and strength to achieve the main goal in the story – to protect her family.

The House at the End of Time is not a movie that aspires to take sides with either faith or science, but instead intends to portray the importance both of these concepts hold for the human being, who struggles to find a purpose of existence amidst ignorance, and thus reach peace and full happiness. The film wasn’t made to stand by any religious or philosophical posture in particular. Au contraire, it’s open to many beliefs. The power of faith to fulfill one’s destiny doesn’t come from the outside, but from within. Dulce’s courage, although she supports it with her belief in God, is truly inside her, and she uses it to subdue her fate and show the kind that of person that she is – a mother that will do anything to protect and save her children – even murder.

Watching The House at the End of Time it struck me how comforting our concept of time is. How do you perceive our concept of time?

I think the human perception of time is very naive. The human being believes that everything has a beginning and an end. But if space is infinite; if it has neither a start nor an end point, then I think time is precisely the same.

The universe has always existed, and there’s no beginning or end to it, nor is there a past or a future – only the present. Time is only a human interpretation related with our limited existence in this world. This is the way I chose to explore the concept of destiny in a thriller.

The characters move through time, and their intent will always be to try and change their destiny so they can avoid tragedy. Destiny though has always been written. We can’t change our destiny; we only do what we can until our destiny is revealed to us. Many people tell me after watching it, “It was really a sci-fi film.” I think the genres in this film are merely excuses to create emotions and entertainment. Deep down it formulates a very profound reflection – every living being is given a period of time, and this time is inherently an opportunity. All living creatures walk the path of their faith and beliefs. When faith is essentially related to the purest form of love, destiny shines with purpose and a real significance, whether it be painful or joyful.


Genre cinema inherently blurs the boundaries, and in The House at the End of Time you merge horror with mystery. What are your thoughts on the way genre has evolved to date, and will continue to evolve over the coming decades?

I think genre has taken many paths, and has evolved in many diverse ways, even combining elements from other genres. In a meeting with the producer he told me, “Horror movies are great for independent film, because they can be made with limited resources and the actors can be unknowns. The audience is fascinated by the idea that what they see on screen can really happen to anybody, including themselves.”

I have seen genres evolve in so many ways that I don’t know at this point what other possible way will be invented to tell horror stories. I’m quite enthusiastic about the idea of combining genres though, and above all else creating humane and realistic characters. If the characters are true, then the fear will be much more authentic.

Do you perceive horror to be a universal genre or do you think that within its ability to be universal each country infuses it with a unique sense of feeling that derives from that particular culture?

Both are true. For the emotions and truths expressed by its characters and creators horror is completely universal. This universality is in fact derived from, and substantiated by the variety of beliefs and the cultures of its makers. During the screening of a movie, there’s indeed a single absolute truth, and that’s what people are watching on screen. I personally don’t believe in evil spirits or demons, but I’m fascinated by the fear I experience with these kinds of films, because for two hours I blindly believe in the truth the creators are presenting on screen.

There is a good deal of criticism when one talks about the production and distribution challenges facing filmmakers in the U.S. and the U.K, which of course are the struggle for filmmakers from every country. What are your feelings towards the modern production and distribution model in Venezuela?

We have a few contradictions in Venezuela. On the one hand cinema has greatly evolved. This is represented by the amount of films that are being produced yearly, along with the huge acceptance and the growing support of the audiences, and the international renown that our movies are achieving in film festivals everywhere. There’s a law that allows the financing of a sizable number of films. The funds come from taxes that private companies related to the audiovisual industry pay. This law even protects the films during national distribution, ensuring that they will premiere and be screened for at least two weeks in theatres all over the country. After that, the films must sustain themselves by accomplishing a set average of spectators.

On the other hand, there is this wide view that is opposed to the political, social and economic situation that Venezuela’s going through right now. Our country is suffering from a profound crisis. Our currency is completely devalued and there’s a shortage of food, services and goods of all kinds. These economic problems are an obvious obstacle for the production of films, as well as for their profitability. Our industry needs to strengthen its foreign links to achieve a proper international distribution. In this we have a tremendous difficulty, and like many other countries we have to face a film industry as powerful as Hollywood. Fortunately, the audiences are avid for new points of view and fresh ways of telling stories.

What does it mean to be playing at FILM 4 FrightFest, and what does FrightFest mean to you personally?

To me it’s a great honour that my film is to be screened in the UK, and in a festival as prestigious as FrightFest. It is a venue where so many great filmmakers around the world have presented their works, and it is also quite an honor that the House at the End of Time should be the first Venezuelan film to be screened in the festival. I’m very enthusiastic and I hope that the audiences there will like the picture. I also hope that this great opportunity will allow us to reach a distribution agreement in the UK.

How important is the festival circuit for filmmakers and distributors alike? If the festival circuit ceased to exist, what would be the impact on the landscape of modern cinema?

Film festivals are a vital gathering place for filmmakers and distributors all over the world. Festivals offer the opportunity for films to transcend boundaries and thus achieve distribution agreements in other places of the globe. The dream of every director is for their movie to be watched by audiences worldwide, simply because we have the need to express ourselves as artists. All of this power can only be granted by film festivals.

So many films play at festivals never to secure distribution, and therefore never have an opportunity to find an audience. A film can take up to two years of your life, and in the face of such uncertainty why would you put yourselves through the arduous task of making a film?

I believe we come to this world to be happy, and to be what we really want to be. The applause, the tears of the smile of a single spectator can fill the heart of an artist. An artist is made to bring a small ray of light to the world. Sometimes other lights shine brighter and more intensely in other places. Rationally speaking, it’s a very difficult market, full of obstacles, but for a true artist, it will always be worth it to pay the price in exchange for giving a bit of sense to the lives of thousands of strangers.

Filmmaking in terms of production can also be a very profitable business, and it’s only a matter of finding the audience that wants to watch your film. Every film has its devoted audience, and all stories have someone who wants to hear them.

Looking ahead to the future what’s next for you, and has The House at the End of Time deepened your affection and understanding of film and storytelling?

I came to this world to make films, and it’s what fills me with the most passion and it is what makes me the most happy. The House at the End of Time means a lot to me because it has opened doors for me to an infinite world of learning. This film is only the beginning, and my goal right now is to keep my instruction and formation as a director and a producer.

The intention with my future works is that they can reach more places across the world. Presently, while I focus on the international distribution of this movie, I’m in the process of writing my next film, a sci-fi work. In spite of how hard it is to make films; of how difficult and painful it can sometimes become, I love cinema today more than ever. Although I’ve had a great insight into the know-how of storytelling, I still have so much to learn, to try and experiment with. The formation of a filmmaker must never end.

 Check out our FrightFest coverage here.


I came to this world to make films, and it’s what fills me with the most passion and it is what makes me the most happy. The House at the End of Time means a lot to me because it has opened doors for me to an infinite world of learning. This film is only the beginning, and my goal right now is to keep my instruction and formation as a director and a producer.

The intention with my future works is that they can reach more places across the world. Presently, while I focus on the international distribution of this movie, I’m in the process of writing my next film, a sci-fi work. In spite of how hard it is to make films; of how difficult and painful it can sometimes become, I love cinema today more than ever. Although I’ve had a great insight into the know-how of storytelling, I still have so much to learn, to try and experiment with. The formation of a filmmaker must never end.