House of Sweat and Tears Explores Powerful Themes


written by Marissa Pona


House of Sweat and Tears (Casa De Sudor Y Lágrimas) is a 2018 offering from director and writer Sonia Escolano. The film centers around a cult-like group of worshipers and their leader, an enigmatic and brutal woman known only as She. The film plays with some pretty heavy themes about the notions of faith and forgiveness. It also challenges the characters and, by extension, the viewers, to question the strength, existence, or ramifications of their own religious beliefs.

Viewers looking for a quick paced horror flick might be disappointed. There is little to no major action in this film. In fact, short of some very intense but short lived scenes of body horror, this film is the epitome of a slow burn.

In addition to exploring some powerful themes, House of Sweat and Tears is at its best when its many troubled protagonists are sharing the screen. The film is a study of how people cope with conflicting dogma while surviving a meaningless and tortured existence. The isolation and lack of awareness of the outside world gives the film and its characters a claustrophobic tension that is solidified by very strong performances, particularly from Coline Charvin as Sophie and Pablo Macho as Jérôme. Like them, the audience is disoriented and feels every minute of distress that the characters endure.

House of Sweat and Tears is horror at its most esoteric and philosophical, creating tension through very real presentations of crises of faith and human suffering.  What the film might lack in action or even resolution to the many issues it raises, it makes up for with thematic strength and strong moments of tension. It poses tough questions about the nature of religion and the frailties of belief without ever offering any answers. The film relies on its audience to connect the dots, even if it sometimes fails to offer the right details for us to do so.

Ultimately, House of Sweat and Tears certainly allows Escolano to leave a memorable mark. I am excited to see her future offerings, as this film more than demonstrates that she has a strong eye, and is not afraid to take her time and use it. This film creates tension by punishing its audience with the same isolation and uncertainty that plagues its characters.

Viewers can expect to be dragged through the darkness of the cult’s sanctuary and its members’ innermost thoughts. It all culminates in an ending that, while brutal and beautiful all at once, offers no answers to the many questions Escolano poses. When the credits roll, we are left with lingering dread and uncertainty about what we saw and what it all means. Then again, perhaps that is no accident. After all, there are some who would say that this is exactly how so many questions of faith and religion leave us.

House of Sweat and Tears is distributed by Rock Salt Releasing and will be available on major streaming platforms beginning May 20th, 2019. Images in this review were provided courtesy of TriCoast Worldwide.

Samantha Kolesnik