The House is the most unique Netflix Original film to arrive on the streaming platform in recent memory. A haunting stop-motion anthology, the film is home to plenty of spooks, laughs, and long, shadowy hallways.
Each chapter is directed by a different filmmaker, taking place in a separate time period and following a new set of residents in the titular House. This allows for a lot of creative freedom, with each director injecting their part with their own individual style. The first short follows the haunting tale of an impoverished 1800s family who move into a mysterious new house at the behest of an eccentric architect. The second depicts a modern-day building contractor mouse who must deal with some serious infestation problems. Finally, the third story delves into the struggles of a landlady cat in a post-apocalyptic future. Whilst none of these stories sound in any way connected, they all share common threads.
The stop-motion animation is a thing to behold. Everything is just so intricately crafted, rivalling even the likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Coraline. Character designs are so memorable and creative, and seeing them in motion is brilliant. Some of the more elaborate scenes were truly spectacular, with the sheer detail on screen being mind-blowing at times. Everything just feels so alive and emotive, whilst also having that signature uncanny valley creepiness that is a staple of the stop-motion medium.
Each part tackles its own complex themes. Part One sees how jealousy and materialism can consume people and make them neglect what is truly important in life. Part Two reveals the damage ignoring lingering problems can have on us. Lastly, Part Three shows how sometimes not everything will go to plan and that we need to learn to move on. These impactful messages are at the heart of The House’s overall meaning.
The unrelenting atmosphere is The House’s biggest achievement, however. Whether it’s the deeply unsettling music or the creepy and at times disturbing visuals, there is always an unflinching sense of dread. This is accentuated by the House itself, which is a character in its own right. Being simultaneously labyrinthine and claustrophobic, its towering walls and spooky hallways leave the audience feeling trapped at all times. Even with its multiple changes in appearance, as well as some excellent moments of dark comedy, the fear of the unknown keeps you on the edge of your seat, waiting for something to happen. That in my opinion is far more effective than any cheap jumpscare.
However, whilst the anthological nature of the film is one of its main strengths, it is also one of its major weaknesses. None of the shorts overstay their welcome, but their reliance on ambiguity to up the creepiness can leave some parts feeling more underdeveloped than others. I would have appreciated more time with certain residents, as some aspects of their stories felt incomplete, rushed, and slightly unsatisfying. If they were to attempt something like this again, I would prefer something like a limited series that allowed for elements to be more fleshed out.
The House is a wonderfully creepy collection of cautionary tales, made all the better by its beautiful stop-motion animation. Though cracks can start to show, with some parts are weaker than others, the foundations on which The House is built hold strong.
By James O’Brien
Image credit: Netflix, Nexus Studios