The House is a unique and unnerving animation showcasing three diverse styles within one feature-length presentation.
This review of the Netflix film special The House does not contain spoilers.
Indie production company Nexus studios, who’ve worked with the likes of Billie Eilish, Volkswagen, PlayStation, and the BBC (remember that drug-fuelled Tokyo 2020 Olympics ad?), have concocted a twisted stop-motion animation for Netflix. The House is set across three time periods (the past, present, and future), with these three sinister tales all linked by one seemingly insignificant building and a constant sense of looming dread.
The first story, set in the 19th century, features a poor, downtrodden family who are seemingly saved from their destitution by a mysterious architect, known only as Mr. Van Schoonbeek. This unseen designer promises them a luxurious house in return for their current abode. The father Raymond (voiced by Matthew Goode) can’t believe his luck and jumps at the opportunity. Soon the family of four are packing up their belongings and heading for the lavish house on the hill. Once inside, Raymond gawps at the furnishings, whilst the mother Penny falls instantly in love with the house’s sewing machine. They gorge on a banquet of food and settle down for the night. However, as with most things in life, the deal is too good to be true and things slowly start to fall apart.
The daughter Mabel (voiced by Mia Goth – no stranger to the horror genre) sees the house for what it truly is; she glances at shadowy figures and catches unnerving panting, even giggles in the dark. Elements of horror are sprinkled throughout this opening segment, with an obvious homage to The Shining in every closing door and unending corridor. As Mabel investigates, with her baby sister in tow, the secrets of this place start to unravel.
Part two of the anthology hurtles us forwards in time to a more modern setting, yet now with clothed mice to ogle at. From the off, we’re introduced to our determined protagonist, the ‘Developer’ voiced by the unmistakable Jarvis Cocker (frontman of Pulp and two-time Wes Anderson collaborator). This busy mouse is singlehandedly renovating the infamous House, after firing all his builders. Not content with that massive undertaking, he also suits up to fill in as the estate agent too.
There’s plenty of comedy in this section, what with the mouse taking selfies in the kitchen or grooving on down to N.E.R.D. and some harmless slapstick as he drops a box of tiles on the floor. With his big open day imminent, disaster strikes as the house is infested with fur beetles. More hilarity ensues as the renovator battles with the vermin, shouting: “You’re going down” and “Take it” until he passes out from exhaustion. The open day is just as chaotic, the guests are uninterested and a child runs around smearing ice cream all over the furniture and fish tank. All seems lost until two oddly shaped mice state their interest in the house. The Developer is delighted, yet as always this ecstasy is short-lived.
The third and final story places the House in a flooded, apocalyptic future painted in a misty, dream-like fog. The mice have morphed into cats and we are met by Rosa (Susan Wokoma) as she attempts to restore the hallowed building to its former glory. Her tenants (Helena Bonham Carter and Will Sharpe) are behind on their rent and the water that surrounds them just keeps on rising. Undeterred by these gaping setbacks, she soldiers on, even when a new arrival (After Life’s Paul Kaye) starts to steal the floorboards. This section, which is easily the weakest of the three, tries to end on a different palate and approach. Unfortunately, this sudden alteration in mood unbalances what came before it and ends the trilogy on a fizzle, not a bang.
The animation is the outright USP of Netflix’s The House and all three entries are exquisitely and lovingly crafted. There will be countless comparisons with the filmography of Wes Anderson, especially Fantastic Mr. Fox (which Jarvis Cocker also appears in), nevertheless, it is the opening segment that lingers in the mind. The fuzzy, textured felt animation fits with the time period perfectly and adds to the creepy setting. You can see with every painstaking movement that an excruciating amount of patience and care has gone into this creation.
Overall, this is a dazzling display of creativity, three distinct teams of filmmakers all working towards one common goal. Each segment is unique in its own style and genre, but they all work together to embody one feature-length presentation. The quality may differ from one story to the next, with part two being a clear highlight, but this type of content should be applauded and not such a rarity anymore.
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