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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.
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Rating: Go See It!