The House review – a beautiful animation that speaks to your darkest terrors | TV & radio
WWell here is a fun little curiosity to distract you a bit. The House, produced by UK-based Nexus Studios and released by Netflix, is a special adult stop-motion anthology. Three stories of about half an hour each take place in the same house at different times. The first two have a frightening twist, the third is a simpler but dystopian tale.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m firmly on the side of those who find stop-motion animation quite spooky without adding any intentional scares. The slightly jerky nature of the movement is a constant reminder of the endless, invisible positioning and repositioning that occurs. It speaks to my darkest terror – that we have no free will and are in fact just toys for invisible gods, laying here, there and everywhere for nothing more than their sport. We’re all just puppets, you know? Puppets with illusory notions of freedom and independence. Do you still see? Do you see?
I am sorry. Where was i? A 90-minute, three-part stop-motion special, The House. OKAY.
The first and by far the most successful of the trio is made (using felted bulbous-headed figures who – even without my particular terrors – fall somewhere between charm and disquiet) by Belgian authors Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels and located around the turn of the last century. An impoverished family is persuaded to move to their home by the architect’s envoy, Mr. Thomas, who is voiced by the master of strangeness Mark Heap (and whose presence adds an ineffably unsettling touch to all who recognize the pink tones that never predicted once). They leave their tiny home for a much grander, specially designed and fully furnished business, built on a nearby hill, where all mod cons are provided – lights come on automatically after dark, all meals are provided . You don’t need to have recently watched the BBC thriller The Girl Before to get a bad feeling about it, but it helps.
Of course, it soon appears that even in Edwardian times, there is no free breakfast, lunch, or tea. The house will demand a price. The parents (voiced by Matthew Goode and Claudie Blakley) quickly become slaves to his dark mind (or that of his owner, whose grim face sometimes overlaps the set – you know the drill). Their young daughter, Mabel (Mia Goth), is unaffected, but the malicious house transforms around her so that she cannot reach her fascinated parents in time to save them from the raging conflagration that rages them. eventually consumes.
There is nothing narratively innovative here, but the delighted parents, the incredulous or inaudible child and the inability to reach safety – no matter how many hallways you walk and which corners you walk through. you turn – are eternally effective nightmare tropes, and rendering them that way adds a novelty that refreshes them. And the design, the overall aesthetic, is magnificent.
It is a draw between which of the other two is the least rewarding. In the one directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr, the house is being renovated in the present by a besieged developer (voiced by Jarvis Cocker). We first meet him as he tries to attract new investment and fend off an invasion of “furry beetles” (this time the characters are anthropomorphized animals – the developer, who is not given another name. , is a rat). His troubles escalate when a pair of supposed potential buyers who come to the open house refuse to leave. They are soon joined by a host of other friends and relatives. The final scenes reveal the developer with his mind well and truly broken. But the story is too incomplete to deliver true horrors or work like a fable about violation, capitalism, or any of the other themes that he seems at various times to vaguely nod his head.
The latest, directed by Paloma Baeza, finds Rosa (a cat figure, this time voiced by Susan Wokoma) engaged in a futile battle to restore the house as the floodwaters of the future inexorably rise around her.
She has tenants, played by Helena Bonham Carter and Will Sharpe, but they pay her in fish and crystals – currency unacceptable to the plumbers and electricians she would like to employ. One by one, her tenants leave to find a safer location elsewhere and eventually she is persuaded to leave too.
This last third is a very, very light affair. If the content of the stories had matched the careful form, the anthology might have been quite a breakthrough success. As it stands, architects need to get back to the drawing board.