Netflix’s The House Review: A visually impressive and thematically poignant must watch
Netflix’s The House delivers a unique stop-motion anthology that’s got some slow-building horror and interesting themes akin to the platform’s other anthology offerings.
The film tells three stories centered on three different inhabitants of a seemingly immortal house where personal insecurities and struggles haunt those who live there. Nexus Studios’ stop motion animation gives The House a distinct visual identity that carries some reminiscence to the style of Wes Anderson’s animated films. The character designs and textures make The House incredibly eye-catching and it’s interesting how even though every story mainly takes place in the film’s titular house, it’s an environment that has a lot of depth. Even as the house goes through intriguing interior changes fitting to each story’s period setting, it still retains its identity that gives the house an immortal, haunting presence.
Now, while The House isn’t labeled as a straight-up horror film since it’s not meant to be a scare-fest, its animation and stories provide a lot of unexpected chills and thrills. The House is atmospheric horror at its finest, especially within its first two stories, as it builds up the haunting connection between the house and its inhabitants. The shadowy, mysterious nature of the first story, dealing with a poor family moving from their village home into a large house being built for them by a dark and mysterious architect, instills plenty of uneasiness as the family’s eldest daughter Mabel (voiced by Mia Goth), traverses the home throughout the night. It never feels exactly clear what’s happening to Mabel’s family and why they’ve become transfixed by the house, but chill-inducing lighting and eventual realization of what happens to Mabel’s parents is genuinely creepy.
As for The House’s second story, which follows an anthropomorphic rat (voiced by Jarvis Crocker) that’s working on the house in the hopes of making a big sale, it delivers some intriguing, horror-driven animation of its own. The bugs that appear throughout the house really make your skin crawl and the unsettling nature of a couple of unexpected guests gives the second half of this story a constant sense of unsureness as to what will happen. Personally, the sheer empty feeling of the house makes it a perfect horror environment in all the stories, and the way that it slowly connects to and almost tortures the Developer rat is terrifying. There’s a whole sequence with the bugs psychologically taunting the rat that’s strangely mesmerizing and there are some visually impressive imagery that really capture your attention with how terror-inducing they are. The strongest imagery always ends up coming from the end of The House’s stories each come with how they capture the meaning of the story, even if the stories aren’t always easy to connect with, narratively speaking.
Although the stop motion animation helps enhance the atmospheric horror and visual storytelling, The House struggles to avoid the pitfalls of atmospheric horror. Because of how secretive and mysterious it tries to be with its details, the stories aren’t always easy to follow and even when big reveals happen, not much is really explained. Honestly, a second or third viewing is likely needed to fully understand its themes and even then, the slow pacing doesn’t exactly make multiple viewings all that enticing. However, those that find a good connection to the material and think more on the characters’ respective journeys will find some engaging introspective themes.
The House can be really powerful and thought-provoking at times with its themes around what makes a house a home, the importance of the connections we build, and the dangers of prioritizing the things we have more than our own selves. With how personal each story feels, the ideas around these ideas can be very impactful making the consequences the characters face the stuff of nightmares. Sometimes the endings can feel a little abrupt and not transition well to the next story, but they certainly encapsulate the meaning of the stories well and can leave you absolutely shook with their devastation.
The third story, which centers on an anthropomorphic cat named Rosa (voiced by Susan Wokoma) trying to keep the house alive in apocalyptic future where the world is flooded with water, is easily the strongest of the trio because of the unique impact it leaves. It’s less focused on atmospheric horror and presents a more personal character-driven story that has a more hopeful ending. Rather than shock you with how horrifying things have become, The House’s third story offers a more optimistic ending that presents a path for viewers to learn from and have genuine takeaways. It’s an excellent culmination of The House’s themes and leaves things on a more inspiring note.
The House is exactly the kind of “off the beaten path” content Netflix subscribers are always looking for and even if its ideas don’t land in a first viewing, its impressive horror-driven animation and thematic storytelling make it a worthwhile watch.