The Wolf House (2018): Maladaption from National Trauma

Latin American films have begun to emerge within the mainstream horror genre. As they do, history follows suit. The Wolf House is a film that requires multiple viewings.

Disclaimer: If you click a PHASR link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission.

The Wolf House 2018

The Wolf House (2018)

Latin American films have begun to emerge within the mainstream horror genre. As they do, history follows suit. The Wolf House is a film that requires multiple viewings.

Guillermo Del Toro opened Americans’ eyes by bringing Latin Fantasy Horror into the mainstream public. Now, contemporary filmmakers are coming into the Latin Horror genre with something to say. Directors Joaquin Cocina and Cristobal Leon created something truly disturbing and distinctive in just under eighty minutes. The art style alone deserves its own praise before digging into the horrendous backstory that influenced this film.

The Wolf House (La Casa Lobo) is a film that requires multiple viewings. Its combination of 2-D and 3-D elements create a nightmare-inducing narrative. The entirety of the film, with the exception of the beginning clip, is done solely through animation with the intent of looking like one long take.

The Wolf House 2018 Film
Directors Joaquin Cocina and Cristobal Leon on set of The Wolf House (2018)

Despite shooting in so many different locations, the film plays as a single continuous shot, like the free-associative flow of thought.   

Walker Art Magazine

This means we get to see the construction and deconstruction of the claymation. Animate objects transform into the inanimate. Painting slowly forging into clay as the color drains from the character in the process.  The story never stops and continues around the dizzying house. Just like in The Shining where the hallways seem to enter a maze you can never escape. A feeling of claustrophobia emerges. The camera continuously shakes, creating an anxious sensation of wanting to slow down and take a breath. Only there is no time for breathing. Something is lurking within the painted walls, something sinister in the background. The history of Chile begins to surface.

Chile’s Ugly Fascist Past

During the 40’s the world was at war. The Axis vs The Allies. But what was going on in the Global South during WWII? More specifically the South of Latin America? Well, they were stuck in the middle. With economic ties between both opposing forces, Latin America tried their best to stay neutral. But in 1942 after Germany sank two Mexican tankers, Mexico had to join and help the Allies. 

In the process, Mexican foreign secretary Ezequiel Padilla urged other Latin American countries to follow in their footsteps. Panama helped by allowing the usage of the Panama Canal. Brazil was the only Southern American country to send ground troops. So what was Chile doing in all of this? For the majority of the war, they tried to stay neutral due to German influence. During the mid-1800s, the Chilean government encouraged German immigration. So naturally, German Chilean’s began forming colonies within this Latin Country. Two cultures merging into one.

In February 1945, Chile officially entered the war, but only declared war against Japan. The Allies won the war not long after Chile’s declaration of war. After the end of WWII, the effects lingered. Former members of the Nazi party fled Germany, many finding refuge in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and – you guessed it – Chile. 

A little under twenty years later, Germans are still immigrating to Southern Latin American countries. One of these German immigrants was control-addict Paul Schaefer, the power-hungry monster behind the cult Colonia Dignidad

So, I’m going to be honest. I don’t want to spend too much time on Schaefer himself as I feel that too much power is given to infamous people. We should learn through what they made people experience and how they changed history, but that’s about it. Just know that Paul Schaefer is as problematic as they come. There’s hundreds of accounts of child abuse and other crimes under his belt.

Fusing Fantasy with Real-Life Horror

Colonia Dignidad (“Colony Dignity” translated in English) was founded in 1961.  Starting off as an anti-communist Baptist community, Scaefer soon turned the colony into an off-grid cult. Fast forward about ten years and this compound was guarded by barbed wire, a watchtower, and security dogs. This is the setting and backdrop directors Joaquin Cocina and Cristobol Leon picked for The Wolf House.

The synopsis for this artistic film goes as follows: a young girl named Maria escapes the grasp of her upbringing group. She finds hospice in an abandoned house with two pigs. Once confined a sinister Wolf masquerades outside the house wanting to enter and bring her back. 

Off the bat we can see the fantasy horror which Latin America is famously known for. Only this film is playing as a propaganda story to tarnish the reputation of Colonia Dignida.

What National Trauma Can Lead To

The Wolf House 2018 Movie
The Wolf House (2018)

All this backstory may seem lengthy but it is useful when digging into this film. And honestly this is just scratching the surface, as there’s so many metaphors that went over my head even during my second time watching it. But one thing was obvious upon the rewatch once the awe-striking animation was put into the background to give focus instead to the narrative. 

Chile and its people suffered through the time of Paul Schaefer. Even in post-2020, this history haunts them. The national trauma this country endured lives through the people and its stories. In this case, even leaving Colonia Dignidad during its peak leaves an imprint in your mind, and sometimes it’s hard to adapt outside of a world that you once knew. And its disgusting claws dig through you until it’s overbearing. Maladaptive behaviors are born and you find yourself repeating a cycle you once tried to flee.

Maria’s Failed Attempt at Leaving Tyranny

Upon meeting Maria, we’re told she’s a daydreamer. She thinks for her own. She’s considered a rebel. This is everything that goes against being in the colony. And when she finds herself punished for letting two pigs escape, well, those 100 days of isolation don’t sound too appealing. She escapes. After she quickly finds refuge in an abandoned house, The Wolf, who we can assume to be Paul Schaefer, tries his best to recapture Maria, the blonde blue-eyed Aryan. 

The narrative of the film takes the premise of the fairy tale about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf as its foundation. When we think about this story, the morals are fairly obvious. Its themes revolve around hard work and determination paying off. Maria is building her home within this boarded house as The Wolf outside stalks her and the two pigs. 

You know a stranger should never enter a real house.

The Wolf, The Wolf House (2018)

But just like the fairy tales before the capitalist mouse got his hands on the genre, this one ends in a more serious, sinister, and decidedly un-Disney tone. 

While Maria aimlessly walks around this claustrophobic house, she decides to turn the two escaped pigs, which she calls “Piggies with Hands” and “Piggies with Feet,” into humans. The transformation is done by the indulgence of honey, which Colonia Dignidad was famous for exporting.

As we witness the long brutal process of the body horror at hand, it’s hard not to imagine the intense torture sessions that occurred inside the colony. During Pinnochet’s regime, criminals were sent to Colonia Dignida by the government with over 2,000 accounts of executions.

Upon the completion of the transformation, Maria tries to control the environment. She considers herself a mother, an angel, and the walking representation of love and care. She begins by naming the new humans Ana and Pedro to which she feels gives them DIGNITY. She tells them:

You will never have to leave here…The only way to stay safe is to listen to me.

Maria, The Wolf House (2018)

What was once done to Maria, she now tries to emulate it. She tells stories of the colonies like “The Dog in the House,” a story about The House and its everlasting love for the dog. Only the dog is disobedient. The dog didn’t listen and ran away, just how Maria did in the beginning. Only the dog gets lost.

Another story told later on in the film is how honey is pure, yet wasn’t given to those with the darkest of skin, because, according to The Wolf, they’re lazy and dumb. Following the story, Maria begins closing all the doors and windows. Keeping the house full of secrets hidden from the outside world. The cycle of abuse continues. Even outside of the abusive holds, Maria descends into tyranny – exactly what she initially wanted to escape.

 And the wind brought back to the house the smell of injuries and broken bones.

Maria, The Wolf House (2018)

About halfway through the film, Maria burns the house. The Wolf returns trying to stop her and take her back. But due to her stubbornness, she decides to keep on with her tyrannical behavior. She adds honey on Pedro’s burned body and periodically gives him more to turn him “more bigger, healthier and handsome” in Maria’s words. 

The Wolf House 2018
The Wolf House (2018)

Eventually Pedro is transformed into a blonde blue-eyed Aryan. Maria can’t help but admire his beauty. Ana follows the transformative procedure as well as she immerses in the honey. The new pair move from innocent farm animals, to black haired indigenous people, to the now pure race. The only way to be truly happy and in unison is when all three are of the same pure race genetic uniform and wearing old German clothing as all three of them hold hands and a halo is drawn behind them.

But everything comes to an end. The honey begins to dissipate. And tensions grow. Ana and Pedro become more disobedient and take matters into their own hands. They tie up Maria. And she calls for the Big Bad Wolf for help. 

I need someone to take care of me permanently. I can’t do it alone.

Maria, The Wolf House (2018)

The Big Bad Wolf comes to her aid and rescue. 

Huff and puff and erase your sadness. Huff and puff and draw your smile.

The Wolf, The Wolf House (2018)

Maria, the little bird, is now set free from her own self and is taken back into the colony. As she escaped the Colonia in the beginning, it was hard for her to adapt to the new world. Her upbringing clouded her mind. Tyrannical views formed her psyche. But who could blame Maria, as national trauma can lead to maladaptive traits.

Behind the never-ending eerie sensation, the animation brings, behind the themes and metaphors, there’s a country with a hidden past. Latin American films have begun to emerge within the mainstream horror genre. As they do, history follows suit. In the end, these narratives are able to shine a light on overlooked events. As a society, we can adapt and learn from these situations.

Make The Other Emails In Your Inbox Jealous.

Get The Best Of PHASR Delivered Weekly

The Perfect Shirt For All Your Special Stains.


Get The Best of PHASR Directly To Your Inbox!

When you sign up for the PHASR newsletter,
you are automatically entered to
win free PHASR merch.