The Other Side of Animation 250: The House Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s 2022, and we are still in January, which is a noted dump month for a bunch of films that eitherHollywood doesn’t mind losing money on, or are hoping that they can offer something to moviegoers who aren’t interested in the award season fodder that gets released. Thankfully, with the advent of streaming and streaming services that are more willing to be experimental and offer distinct experiences, January is no longer the worst month of the year. Granted, bad movies are still going to get dumped into January, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Luckily, we have something like the incredible anthology film that they originally marketed as a limited series with Netflix’s The House

The three shorts are directed by three sets of directors. The first short, And heard within, a lie is spun, is directed by  Marc James Roels & Emma De Swaef. It’s about a family who lives in a small humble home where the dad is tired of being judged for being poor. One dark night, he meets a client who is willing to offer him and his family a nice fancy house with no real hang-ups. Well, at first. The second short, Then lost is truth that can’t be won, which is directed by Niki Lindroth Von Bahr, it’s about a mouse that is trying to sell a house that he is refurbishing. Nothing is looking great until he catches the attention of a fairly odd couple. The final short, Listen again and seek the sun, is directed by Paloma Baeza, and is about a cat who owns the titular house in a world that has been flooded and is trying to refurbish it while the water is rising and to soon engulf the house. On top of tenants that don’t properly pay, a new arrival to the house sets things up for something life-changing. 

One of the fun aspects of seeing this anthology film is how distinct it is from other horror films. We have seen anthology films in horror and live-action, but when do we ever get horror animated features that aren’t Halloween specials made for families? It’s one of the few examples of animation that is aimed at adults that isn’t hyper-violent. Now, before walking into this film that was for some reason marketed as a limited series, there is something you should know. This is not a traditional horror film with jumpscares or hyper-violence. Some have said that this would be a stop-motion horror film by the ways of what A24 likes to distribute, and, well, that’s not wrong. The horror here does have some genuine scares, but consider this the category of scares that get under your skin and are more metaphorical. The stories deal with obsession, depression, abandonment, gentrification, and other themes that are woven throughout the three stories, and each one is consistently unnerving to sit through. It gets you in the same way the paranoia in John Carpenter’s The Thing or Ari Aster’s Midsommar hits you when you realize something is extremely off about the situations in each of the stories. Why did this family get such a nice house? Who is the odd couple interested in buying the house? What is really going on with the landlord of the house? What mysteries are there in this setting? If that’s the type of horror for you, then this film will absolutely click with you. It can even be somewhat funny and extremely heartwarming at times. It depends on the story you are watching, of course. 

Animation-wise, it’s stop motion! It’s extremely fun and impressive to see studios and teams still making films with an art style that is costly and time-consuming, which is what most studios are allergic to. The first short uses the duo director’s iconic use of felt-like humans with very round heads and tiny faces. Even with such distinct designs, the horror and atmosphere doesn’t feel distracting. The other two use fur and designs that will be familiar to viewers who have seen the stop-motion short The Burden, or if you have seen any Wes Anderson stop-motion films. The voice cast is also rather good with a few big names, but it was never a huge marketing point. You do have Helena  Bonham Carter, Mathew Goode, Paul Kaye, Claudie Blakley, Mia Goth, Mark Heap, Miranda Richardson, Josh McGuire, Stephanie Cole, Jarvis Cocker, Dizzee Rascal, Yvonne Lombard, Sven Wollter, Tommy Hibbits, Ayesha Antoine, Susie Wokoma, and Will Sharpe. The music by Gustavo Santaolalla is delightfully creepy, unsetting, but also ethereal and emotional. He also helped compose the music for The Book of Life, Narcos: Mexico, The Last of Us Part 1 and Part 2, Finch, and Maya and The Three

Despite being a sort of “you have to be in this mood” horror film, and the confusion as to why they marketed this as a limited series rather than a film has never been fully explained, The House is 2022’s first big animated hit. It’s an incredible experience that if you are a fan of animation, you should absolutely check out this film! Granted, this is absolutely not for kids. Not to say they probably couldn’t handle it, but they will either be terrified or really bored. If you like horror films that are more akin to the A24-distributed types, then you will love this film. If you are more akin to the Blumhouse or more mainstream crowd-pleasing horror, then you will also probably like it! There is room for both hyper-violent and jump-scare-driven horror and more methodical horror. At the end of the day, it all comes down with how you execute it. Now then, next time, we will be looking at the best animated film of 2021 with Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle




Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 62: Extraordinary Tales Review

extra01(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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Something I have noticed from certain movies of 2016 is that they had plots that either weren’t substantial enough for a single movie, like Batman: The Killing Joke, too much is crammed into one movie, or it should have been a miniseries. That last example was very apparent with films like Free State of Jones and Warcraft. To me, if a story isn’t substantial enough for a feature-length film, then maybe don’t stretch it to feature length with something that could make or break the story. If a story has too much to follow and too much information in it, then maybe make it a four-to-six episode miniseries. Or, if you want to tackle multiple short stories or poems, but don’t want to make a single one of them feature-length to keep the writing at its best, then maybe make an anthology film. This is where Extraordinary Tales comes in. This spooky anthology film is set around five stories/poems by the famous author, Edgar Allen Poe. It originates from the director Raul Garcia, who’s work experience includes being in the animation department of multiple Disney films from the 90s, and the director of the film, The Missing Lynx. It also boasts big names of horror talent, including Bela Lugosi (archive recording), Roger Corman, Guillermo Del Toro, and the late great Christopher Lee. So, how does this film do in paying tribute to one of history’s most gothic and death-obsessed writers? Well, let’s find out shall we?

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The film’s set-up takes place in a graveyard where Poe, voiced by Stephen Hugues, has taken the form of a crow to look around at the location where he was buried. He encounters Death, voiced by Cornelia Funke, who he has been obsessed with, but also fears. Poe talks to Death about how he doesn’t want him or his work to be forgotten, and how he fears about the affliction of dying. It’s pretty much a set-up for the short films, which are all uniquely animated versions of The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Masque of the Red Death.

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So, what’s good about the anthology film? Well, the animation is striking and unique. It’s all CGI animation from overseas, which is usually a call for concern, but each of the stories has a different art style. It makes them stand out, and match the creepy atmosphere of each set-up. You have The Fall of the House of Usher with its pencil-shaded polygonal look, The Tell-Tale Heart’s striking black and white aesthetic, the colorful underground comic style for The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, and the painted look of The Masque of the Red Death to name a few.  I don’t know how many viewers would find these stories “scary” due to like comedy, horror and what is scary is subjective if ever rarely agreed upon, but a lot of these shorts are unsettling and eerie. Like, you can feel the dread of death looming over you as you watch these shorts. It also tackles them pretty differently from the paranoia of death, the many ways one could die, trying to escape it, or trying to hide away from it. It’s a neat idea.

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The actors they hired to narrate the stories/voice characters in the stories are great choices. Of course, my favorite one is the late Christopher Lee narrating and voicing the characters in The Fall of the House of Usher. Guillermo Del Toro also does a great job, and it is rather interesting to hear him narrate a story. I also find it fascinating that they got an archive recording of famed horror icon Bela Lugosi reading The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s pretty cool to hear him read the story. I think the one short that stands out the most is the last one, The Masque of the Red Death. It has no narration and is all visual storytelling. Heck, Roger Corman, the king of schlock himself, only gets one line in this story. To me, for being not much of a Poe connoisseur, I feel like the short films got the vibe and the tones down to a T. However, that is just me, because there are always going to be those people who prefer the written version over the film version.

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As usual, I do have some complaints. As it is for most anthology films, some of the shorts are stronger than others. While I think they each stand out in their own unique way, I think The Tell-Tale Heart is my least favorite due to a technical issue I have with the archive recording. It’s cool that they obtained the recording of Bela Lugosi reading this story, but it’s very hard at times to hear him. The English DVD that I bought doesn’t come with English subtitles. It’s hard to hear some of the narrators in some of the stories, like The Pit and the Pendulum. It’s great that Netflix has this film (as of October 17th, 2016), and you can watch it with subtitles. It feels like the sound mixer needed another look-through before saying the job is done. Who knows, maybe that is the best they could do with the archived recording, but watching this on a high volume or with headphones or closed captions would be best. I also think the set-up for the short films could have been stronger. All Poe does is talk about being forgotten, when he won’t be. I mean, I get that feeling of a proud legacy being left behind the passage of time, but they could have just showed the shorts and be fine, or find a better way to combine the setting and shorts.

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In the end though, GKids brought over another great movie with striking visual styles, and a more mature tone. If I had to pick where I would put it terms of the library of GKids films, I would probably put it in the upper middle area. It’s a great movie, but some technical issues and the divisive nature of adaptations will probably result in your experience being different than mine. Even then, I would highly recommend checking this movie out if you want some creepy animation. Well, next week, let’s go back to the goofy side of horror with a DC animated film that I actually liked?! That’s scary. Next time, we look at Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Beware the dark, and beware the goofy 60s Batman!

Rating: Go see it!