In the future, an airborne toxin known as The Shred has slowly covered the planet. The effects of The Shred can be truly devastating, acting like a rapid onset form of dementia that wipes the memories of anyone who is infected by it within a matter of moments. It has seemingly taken over and destroyed most of the population as we spend this entire film with a small family, made up of four women, and one boy who has clearly already been affected in some way by The Shred, who live in a glasshouse that has just enough fresh air in it to keep them going… for now.
One day, while out doing their chores (with their masks on, because these people aren’t complete idiots) one of the women happens upon a stranger and brings him into the glasshouse to try and help him, since he seems unaffected by The Shred. However, once the stranger is inside the glasshouse it creates cracks in the relationships between the little family trying to get by, cracks that will lead to nothing but trouble for the desperate little clan.
There is something truly unnerving about watching a film about an airborne pandemic that requires you to stay inside while living through a pandemic that has put you into a lockdown. The ability to connect the fake pandemic caused by The Shred to the harsh reality we’re currently living through may have helped enhance the general fear that this movie causes. There is something very familiar about having to mask up in order to go outside, being scared of seeing people within 6 feet of you and just worrying if you’ve been exposed because you had your mask off. The connection to our current reality might not have been intentional, but it does elevate the material.
Glasshouse never lingers fully on the actual horror of the situation, cleverly it plays everything as though it were perfectly normal because (as we’ve all learned over the last year) when you have to change your life to accommodate surviving a pandemic, it becomes normal. The film implies some truly horrific things (just look at what they’re carving up for meat in one of the shots) but it never leans into them because they’ve become normal in this world, which makes it more unnerving to suggest what one can become used to in this kind of situation.
Glasshouse also doesn’t really give away how long things have been the way they are when the film begins, we don’t get a flashback to how the toxin started nor do we even really know how long this family has been living like this (though, based on the flashbacks we do get later on in the film, we know it’s a very long time) we just pop in on them living their lives as normally as they’re able to and it’s very easy to understand just what’s happened, meaning when the stranger is introduced to mess things up there’s an instant unease built into the film.
As things escalate more and more, with the stranger effectively creating a wedge between this little family, Glasshouse just gets more and more unnerving. Slowly seeing the cracks form in this close-knit family only gets more devastating the worse things get, especially towards the end when everything crumbles and all the things that were made to keep everyone safe end up thrown aside… again, obscenely wild watching this during this time in history when it’s comparable to things that were literally on the news yesterday.
Glasshouse is another fairly great movie for modern times, up there with something like Host, it just feels like it fits the current mood of the world. A story about a group of people trying to make it through a deadly illness having their lives upended by an asshole who refuses to wear a mask or follow any of the basic guidelines put in place to protect them? Yeah, this film is incredibly relevant and all too relatable, while also just being generally pretty damn good on top of everything else.
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