Paperhouse ★★★★

Hooptober 6.0, pt.7- There was a crooked girl...

4/6- 6 Decades
3/6- Countries Represented (USA, UK, Italy)

2nd Bernard Rose (after Candyman)

A surprise addition to the Hooptober lineup, Rose's early horror effort doesn't reach the heights of Candyman (my favourite new watch from last year, and my vote for the best horror film of the 1990s), but it's still a bold and confident work that anticipates the writings of Neil Gaiman, especially Coraline. On her eleventh birthday, Anna suddenly falls sick. Convalescent, she discovers that a house she drew appears in her dream, and whatever she adds to the drawing appears too. Is it her imagination? Or is she in contact with another dreaming boy? And why is her father there?

Based on a children's book, Paperhouse is not afraid to include nightmarish imagery while still keeping a child-friendly focus. The titular house is brilliantly realised as a series of damp rooms coloured a mouldy brown, casting long shadows on the floor thanks to minimal lighting. The fantastical nature of the building is also accentuated by the wonderful props, like an oversized bicycle and an ice cream machine. Blood and gore is almost non-existent, except for perhaps one chilling shot, yet a strong atmosphere of threat is all-encompassing. The score, partially composed by Hans Zimmer, helps this considerably, through a great use of whispering voices, an electric guitar and synths.

Performance-wise, the primarily female cast is excellent, bar an odd dubbing job on Gleanne Headly which isn't entirely in synch with her mouth movements. Nevertheless, the complicated mother-daughter dynamics are nicely rendered, and it's fun to see Gemma Jones in a small role. Charlotte Burke is splendid in her one and only role as Anna, creating a living, breathing character out of what could have been a one-note role.

The only slight flaw is the end, which wraps up the romantic angle in perhaps a little too pat a way for my liking. Certainly, the film is for children, and a grittier ending would have been inappropriate for such an audience, but it still feels too neat and happy considering the atmosphere of darkness that came before. Nevertheless, a fascinating film from a splendid director.

Rose in Order

1. Candyman
2. Paperhouse

Ethan liked this review