It’s a murder mystery by design, but unfortunately, it basks itself in other tropes and themes but never truly lands on the messages.
This review of Netflix film The Strange House (2021), also known as Das schaurige Haus, does not contain spoilers — the mystery drama was released on the streaming service on May 14, 2021.
Ironically, when you search for The Strange House on IMDB, it comes up with The Scary House. There was definitely a marketing oversight when the publicists came to the slow realization that the story is not that scary at all, so it was wise not to raise the audience’s expectations — the house is strange, so the Netflix title given most certainly does not mislead.
I’m not entirely sure if the Austrian-made film was trying to achieve a Stranger Things vibe with the German language, but it feels like that’s the brand they were after. The story follows young teenager Hendrik (played by Leon Orlandianyi), who is irritated that his mother has moved the family to a small Austrian town to pursue her career. However, he soon learns that in the house they are settling in, there’s a dark, deep secret about the previous family that quickly becomes a Scooby Doo-type mystery show.
Without giving away much (it is a mystery after all), the previous family had a horrific tragedy that involved them all dying. So the question is — who was the murderer within the family? Hendrik becomes befriended by love interest Ida (played by Marii Weichsler, and a young paranormal expert Fritz (played by Lars Bitterlich), who is oddly not deterred by anything.
One of the major flaws of Netflix’s The Strange House is that it quickly loses depth and forgets that the family moved into the town. As a result, we go from irritated and angry Hendrik to a reasonable and rational young teenager. There’s also little emphasis on the house itself, considering the film is based on the settlement. I do wonder if the battle of the titles is more indicative of the director’s (Daniel Prochaska) confusion to nail what the story is truly about. It’s a murder mystery by design, but unfortunately, it basks itself in other tropes and themes but never truly lands on the messages.
It’s a shame. The young cast is truly invested in the story, and there are small moments that shine through. But the story’s persistence in dropping plot devices but leaving the character development behind means that the mystery slowly loses its legs. As a family-together movie, The Strange House is a worthwhile event, but anything above that, you may as well leave it.