If there’s one thing you should know about me and my love for animation, it’s that I hold stop-motion animators in extremely high regard.
Their job takes so much patience and precision, yet they’re still able to bring these stories to life, with so much detail. It’s amazing.
There’s something about stop-motion that gives the medium permission to be weirder and more experimental than traditional 2-D or CGI styles of animation. Perhaps it’s because of the uncanny valley or perhaps it is that those who write and direct live-action are legitimately more experimental with their stories…They’re also considered an acceptable form of animation for adults as well – which means their content can vary and take on more complex themes.
And that’s where Netflix’s The House comes in. A story told in three parts, this movie focuses on an odd house and its inhabitants in the past, present, and future.
Set in England, the stories all focus on a singular house and its inhabitants. In the first story, a family is gifted the house – but the young daughter notices some very strange events happening within the house.
In the second, a modern-day rat developer is repairing the house to sell it but he has to deal with a bug infestation first. After a failure of an open house – he still manages to get one couple interested. But that’s where he runs into the real trouble.
In the third and final story, the house is owned by a cat who has divided the House into apartments. She only has two tenants – but is hoping for more. The only problem? The world is flooding and supplies are hard to get. And forget about rent money. When the flooding gets to be too much, what will she do?
The stories aren’t connected in any linear way – there are no common characters (the first story involves humans, the other anthropomorphic animals) or elements other than the house. But there are similar themes about wealth and obsession.
I love how each story has its own art style – even though it’s all stop-motion each story has a distinct style and aura. My favorite story was the first – because of how creepy and disturbing it is. It’s a brilliant horror story, reminiscent of the original The Twilight Zone series.
All the stories are rather simple, and that really works in their favor. The characters are distinct, with clear motivations and desires. They’re all memorable. And the House, itself is its own creepy entity.
It has rooms and halls, that in the first story, seem to change at random. In all three, it drives its residents to insanity – how is never explained. But particularly in the second and third, the main characters are obsessed with restoring the House and repairing it, in order to get the wealth they desire.
In the first story – the father is also driven by greed – but instead, he accepts an offer from a mysterious gentleman to occupy a house that he will build. But when his family moves in, the gentleman keeps on adding additions and redesigning the house. He and his wife become obsessed with projects – while ignoring their daughters.
While anyone with any knowledge of stories could tell you that you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT accept an offer like the one the father is given – he is desperate to regain his former wealth and status.
In the end, he and his wife get punished for their greed, though the gentleman escapes unscathed.
The film also makes use of the fact that its other characters are animals. A huge part of the second story – is that the main character is a rat who is slowly becoming more and more feral as his attempts to repair and sell the house drive him to insanity.
I don’t quite know why the third story focuses on cats – since there is little to say about how humanity works or animal instincts. This story could have easily worked with the characters as humans – but there’s something poignant about cats trying to escape flooding.
I really enjoyed all the stories for their unique styles and their take on the human condition.
I don’t have any real complaints about this movie.
I do think it would have been interesting if there were some hints as to how the world became populated with sentient animals – with no humans…since it’s clearly the same house. But honestly, the changes just make the whole story more disconcerting.
It’s supposed to be a horror movie of sorts, so it’s okay that not everything gets explained. It’s more frightening that way. Things in horror films, especially psychological horror films like this are that things get less scary the more you explain it.
So it all just really works.
The House is a very good example of the power of animation – Could this story be told in live-action? Maybe. But it certainly wouldn’t have the same effect as the stop-motion. It would have been really difficult to do the second two stories that way.
I really hope Netflix and other companies look at the success of The House and recognize the appeal of animation for all age groups – especially stop-motion animation. There are actually quite a few stop-motion films coming out on Netflix this year – and I am very excited to see them.
And that’s the scoop.
Year of release: 2022
Length: 97 minutes
Producers: Charlotte Bavasso, Christopher O’Reilly
Screenplay by: Enda Walsh