Spanish horror from 2004 that offers a fun and oft-perverse twist on the BAD RONALD/HIDER IN THE HOUSE formula, with a man who suspects someone is living in his house but can’t find the person, followed by a ton of impossible-to-predict twists.
THE UNINVITED GUEST (EL HABITANTE INCIERTO) was the feature debut of Spanish writer/director Guillem Morales. An English language remake was in the works, to be directed by Morales himself, but that project thankfully imploded. Morales instead directed the reasonably well received Guillermo del Toro production JULIA’S EYES in 2010.
THE UNINVITED GUEST made a sizeable impression on the international horror circuit, but unfortunately never got much play in the US, going straight to DVD in 2006 via a rather nondescript, extras-free release from HBO Video.
Felix is a young architect living in a cavernous house that he designed. His girlfriend Anna, who hates the place, walks out on him one day, leaving him alone in the house—until a stranger turns up one night asking to use the phone. Felix lets the guy inside the house, where he inexplicably vanishes.
Felix figures the man must have left when he wasn’t looking. Later that night, however, he hears someone rustling around in the house. After finding traces of the man in his bed and sink Felix calls the police, but they find nothing. He also calls Anna over to stay the night and, following an enthusiastic bout of make-up sex, Felix hears her chatting with an unseen someone. She of course denies talking to anyone, leading to an argument in which Felix inadvertently slashes her with a knife. Understandably concerned for his sanity, Anna leaves.
Growing increasingly paranoid, Felix appears to finally have his suspicions confirmed when an old woman follows her dog into the house and breaks her neck after appearing to be pushed down the stairs. The police, however, are convinced she merely tripped and fell.
Next Felix fires a gun at what he thinks is the intruder—who emits blood and makes noise. Felix locks the person, who he never actually sees, in an upstairs room and takes off. On the street outside he shows two children a picture he’s drawn of the intruder’s face, which they recognize, claiming the guy lives in a house near Felix’s place.
Felix responds by breaking into the house in question and doing precisely what he thinks is happening in his house: he becomes a hider. This other house’s residents include a wheelchair-bound woman named Claudia, her friend Bruno and her husband Martin, who it seems is missing. Is he the one who’s been haunting Felix’s house? And why is Claudia’s cellar door kept permanently locked? And who are those other people Felix spots running through the house…?
The lively and flamboyant opening credits sequence gives a good inkling of what is to come in an energetic film that thrives on the unexpected. True, much of the first half is quite predictable; viewers familiar with classic paranoia-fests ranging from DIABOLIQUE to SECRET WINDOW will know exactly what to expect in scenes like the one in which policemen search Felix’s house (surprise!…they find nothing). Yet writer-director Guillem Morales adroitly plays with horror movie conventions, as in a scene where Felix tries to convince a cop of his guilt in the murder of the old woman, and the cop, in a reversal of standard movie police etiquette, argues for Felix’s innocence.
It’s in the film’s second half that the narrative undergoes quite a few downright mind-boggling (though not always plausible) convolutions. Felix’s behavior grows increasingly odd, and even downright insane, as the film advances, yet it retains attention through unerringly slick filmmaking and a solid lead performance by Andoni Gracia (another cast member of note is IN A GLASS CAGE writer-director Augusti Villaronga, who proves quite effective as the mysterious intruder). The film also contains a blunt sexual angle of a type that used to pop up quite frequently in American horror movies—for which I’m certainly not complaining.
THE UNINVITED GUEST has been viewed in rather heavy, metaphoric terms by some, but I say it works best as precisely what it is: a fun, consistently surprising shock-fest that would have made Hitchcock proud.
THE UNINVITED GUEST (EL HABITANTE INCIERTO)
D Street Releasing
Director: Guillem Morales
Producers: Mar Targarona, Joaquin Padro
Screenplay: Guillem Morales
Cinematography: Sergi Bartroli
Editing: Joan Manuel Vilaseca
Cast: Monica Lopez, Andoni Gracia, Francesc Garrido, Minnie Mark, Augusti Villaronga, Pablo Derqui, Violeta Llueca, Xavier Carpdet, Pere Abello, Fina Rius, Xenia Gausa