Netflix's 'The House' Review: A bizarre yet brilliant stop-motion anthology
Set in three acts, 'The House' tells three different stories across eras, all bound together by one common factor
'The House' might fall under the category of dark comedy but one thing is for sure, it leaves you feeling unsettled. As per the logline of the anthology -- 'Across different eras, a poor family, an anxious developer and a fed-up landlady become tied to the same mysterious house in this dark animated comedy'.
'The House' is divided into three acts -- 'I: And heard within. A lie is spun', 'II: Then lost is truth that can't be won', and finally, 'III: Listen again and seek the sun'. Although the stories are different and can be viewed as standalone, the factor that binds them all together is 'The House' itself.
Act I 'And heard within. A lie is spun' tells the tale of the origin of the house, with an underlining theme of greed. When a seemingly poor family is berated by their relatives, the patriarch Raymond makes a sketchy deal with a certain Mr Van Schoonbeck, who offers to build his family an entirely new home. However, the terms and conditions are that they have to give up thier old house, including their possessions. The story progresses to reveal something far crueller, as Raymond's daughter, nine-year-old Mabel, and nine-month-old Isobel stumble across zombie-like construction workers, never-ending mazes and their parents wasting away. The story is almost reminiscent of 'Spirited Away', seeing that Raymond and his wife Penny are so consumed by the home that they eventually morph into the furniture. Mabel, the only one who was content with her old home, escapes with her sister as the house goes up in flames. An interesting parallel drawn here is the similarities between Mabel's dollhouse and the actual home. Both seem shockingly similar, and even towards the end of act I, as Mabel's dollhouse burns in the fireplace, the actual home is also engulfed in flames.
Act II, titled -- 'Then lost is truth that can't be won', certainly packs on that sinister feeling established by act I. Set in a different timeline, with anthropomorphic characters, a contractor desperately tries to remodel 'The House'. There is even a call back to Mabel's family, as the opening shot is that of an old, discarded sewing machine that Penny, Mabel's mother, used. While the contractor tries desperately to fix the home, he notices a fur bug infestation. The contractor ignores the actual issues with superficial fixes made to the house. To add to the mounting pressure of his loans, he seems to be in contact with his partner, who doesn't quite care. After what feels like a disastrous house viewing, an elderly couple insists that they are interested in the home and soon move in without buying it. The contractor tries to call the cops, but the police issue him a warning instead, as he has been harassing his dentist by mistaking their relationship to be a personal one. The contractor suffers a head injury and soon enters a zombie-like trance, accepting the elderly couple and their entire family into the house. It is only later revealed that the family itself are fur bugs who destroy the home entirely. Whereas for the contractor, he reverts to his primal state -- that of a rat.
Act III continues the anthropomorphic theme seen in act II, where a disgruntled landlady tries desperately to get her only two tenants to pay the rent to fix 'The House', which is now in her possession. Unfortunately, an apocalyptic flood seems to have drowned the entire city, with only 'The House' standing tall of the last remaining piece of architecture. As each of her tenants let go, Rosa, the landlady, seems bound to the house itself. While she can leave with her tenants, the only way she makes this crucial decision is when the house itself is turned into a boat, allowing her to take it with her.
Enda Walsh certainly does an impressive job with each of these stories, combining a sense of bizarreness and sinister darkness. The animation is also particularly impressive, with each era given its own look, while the only constant remains the house itself.
'The House' premieres on January 14th, 2022, on Netflix.