Unnerving, funny, and cathartic The House excels in all the best qualities of animated storytelling.
From its tightly written script to its superb visuals this is a twisted tale that can’t be missed.
The House is a darkly comedic animated anthology. The multi-narrative film is brought to life by several stop-motion directors: Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Paloma Baeza. The story takes place across different eras as we follow a poor family, an anxious developer, and a fed-up landlady as they become tied to the same mysterious house. The film is expertly crafted with each era of the house being divided into three half-hour chapters. We get a gothic horror story, an absurdist dark comedy, and a magical realist tale.
The tonal and genre variety is a treat as we don’t know what to expect or how the stories will progress. This is a welcome change of pace from formulaic blockbusters that insist on setting up the call to adventure within the first half hour then throwing a series of obstacles against the protagonist until finally reaching a climax. Each chapter works as a self-contained film but there is a sense of emotional payoff that runs throughout.
The House creatively breaks the rules of commercial storytelling and harkens back to an earlier time where mythology and reality were blurred. This dance with reality is complemented by use of stop-motion which can communicate a sense of unease or intimacy as the story dictates. I also appreciated how the film is tremendously funny without the characters being overtly glib or “quipping.” The characters behave naturally as they would in any given situation and when the situation becomes absurd the humor soon follows.
There’s been much debate within critical circles as to whether the rise of big comic book movies will force all the quirky indie darlings onto streaming services. While this is no cut and dry issue I do believe that audiences will give an unusual film like The House a chance because of its availability. Even five years ago The House would probably only play in a tiny arthouse theater. This is a film that’s so unique it deserves to be seen by as many households as possible.