The Wolf House ★★★½

A singular look at the nasty history of Chile’s infamous Colonia Dignidad, La Casa Lobo is at the very least an exceptional demonstration of animation technique. One early stop-motion sequence, in which the walls of a room are painted over frame by frame as the camera circles, held me rapt, and the effect that it inspires is scarcely diminished as it is repeated later in the film. This is all put in service of an allegorical narrative about a girl who escapes an oppressive colony, only to be pulled back in. The plot very clearly addresses the sordid tales of sex abuse and enslavement that haunted the real-life fascist-run colony, yet the tone adopts the stance of a survivor who can’t face a horror head on. As such, this is a film that drifts instead of asserts, using whispers to tell its story. The dreamy atmosphere that dominates here will inevitably challenge some attention spans, even as undeniable technical wizardry is put on display, crafting unstable images of decay one after another. The slightly disturbing feeling that the story that we’re being told is unsustainable only increases over the course of the film, and it’s the accompanying, encroaching sense of dread that takes the place of more forceful narrative momentum. Such an emphasis on mood over plot is rare for a feature-length animated film, but it’s precisely due to its canny use of the medium and its refusal to engage directly with reality that The Wolf House gets away with using The Three Little Pigs as its dominant political allegory.