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The 2022 Netflix special is a weirdly dark animated anthology consisting of three short films, all centered around the same house through different periods. Those who enjoy watching offbeat creations like ‘I Lost My Body’, would most likely be able to enjoy ‘The House’ too. While there isn’t any violence or graphic content, the unsettling nature of the stories will be best appreciated by adult viewers, children would only be left confused or scared or both.
Originally conceived as a series, the makers eventually chose to compile all three stories in a three-part film. So here’s a spoiler-free look at them, one by one.
Part One: Directed by Emma De Swaef, the first short film uses stop-motion animation and the sets are evidently hand-made with ardor. The story follows Mabel, a girl who lives in a humble home with her impoverished parents and baby sister Isobel. She is quite content with their circumstances and doesn’t understand the materialistic trappings of the adult world. After a night of drinking, her father returns home a changed man and claims a wealthy acquaintance/architect has offered to build them a magnificent house for free, all they must do in return is leave their home. The family soon moves into the lavishly constructed house, but Mabel instantly feels a sinister presence in the premises.
All the characters are made from wool, and the fabric adds a certain strangeness to them, making them seem eerie. One of the opening scenes has Mabel playing with a doll house, which immediately reminded me of the odd little girl from ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’. But this animated short is creepier than Bly Manor. It’s a horror themed cautionary tale about greed and how it blinds people. Mabel and her baby sister symbolize the untainted innocence of childhood. So while the kids remain safe from the diverse effects of the house, the parents begin to lose themselves to its malevolent charms.
Part Two: Directed by Niki Lindroth Von Bahr, the second story follows a real-estate guy having a hard time flipping and selling a house. The same house. I didn’t enjoy this one particularly, owing my aversion to creepy-crawlies, which this one had plenty of. So if you don’t like to watch disgusting bugs infesting your screen, you might feel the same. The theme and mood is slightly similar to the first one, but the animation is slightly different, it’s a lot brighter and colorful and feels less ominous.
Part Three: The last installment was the least strange and probably the most entertaining of the lot. Directed by Paloma Baeza, the animation has cats as protagonists. Rosa runs a boarding house in the same foreboding building featured in the last two stories, but all her tenants have left due to flooding in the area. She is left with two guests who haven’t paid her in the longest time and she fed up with their ways. When the eccentric free-spirited hippie boyfriend of one of the lodgers arrives at Rosa’s property, he nearly drives her up the wall, forcing her to change her world view.
On the surface, it looks like a silly funny tale about a nutcase landlady, but if one dwells deeper upon its message, one will find it’s really about knowing when to let go of your dreams. It isn’t always wise to hold on to certain goals and desires, and the wise know when to quit. Because quitting doesn’t necessarily mean losing. The stop-motion animation in this edition was delightfully nostalgic and childlike. It’s also the only one that doesn’t have a tragically twisted ending.
Overall, it’s a 7/10 from me for ‘The House’. Stream it on Netflix.