Blending the genres of drama, sci-fi, and thriller whilst injecting a cult creepiness has never felt quite so sublime. A stumbling man on his way to seek refuge in a gargantuan and gorgeous home made of glass is our first introduction to the fantastical dystopia of Glasshouse. The sound of a gunshot breaks through the serene silence of the secluded locale, alerting the audience of possible sinister intent. What follows is a tense character study, tantalizing mystery, and bizarre family drama all rolled up into one exciting package.
It is only after this cold open that the residents are revealed: Mother (Adrienne Pearce) and her three daughters Bee (Jessica Alexander), Evie (Anja Taljaard), and Daisy (Kitty Harris) live with their mentally and emotionally damaged brother Gabe (Brent Vermeulen). They maintain a peaceful existence here at The Sanctuary, holding sacred rituals to help keep a sane grip on their past. A dementia-inducing toxin from the outside called The Shred has a grip over the land. Gabe, who has previously succumbed to the toxin and is referred to by the others as “a forgetter,” is a shining example of the dangers it could pose. He has recurring nightmares and acts anything but normal.
The arrival of an injured stranger (Hilton Pelser) shatters their quiet calm. They take him in, helping to shroud him from The Shred, despite strict rules to “never let a stranger in.” Initially, the man is chained down, but Bee forms a bond with him and is more sympathetic to his circumstances than the others. It is not long before the stranger begins to cause problems, poking Gabe like a sleeping bear and unleashing havoc on the close-knit crew.
This is all so effective, mainly due to excellent casting and rich characters. The entire family has a unique trait or quirk, with even the dynamic between the primary males, Gabe and the stranger, clashing and fueling the flames of conflict. Each line of dialogue fills in vital outside-world perspective that only serves to enrich the narrative. The ending provides cyclical catharsis, then concludes on a sour note of tragedy and defeat. Glasshouse is a film of vibrant personality and developed mythology reflective of our quarantine-addled times—one can only hope it gets snagged quickly for distribution, as it feels like a perfect match for genre streaming service Shudder.
Glasshouse offers you sanctuary from The Shred when it debuts at Fantastia International Film Festival 25.