The House: An Exquisite Genre-Bending Stop Motion for Mature Audiences

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THE HOUSE. (L to R) Susan Wokoma as Rosa, Helena Bonham Carter as Jen, Paul Kaye as Cosmos, and Will Sharpe as Elias in THE HOUSE. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

by Josephine Yee

A uniquely strange stop motion animation film is finally available to us–one that presents an anthology of three different stories with exquisite direction and beautiful felt-material design. The House (2022) presents three stories with different directors revolving around the same house but containing different worlds with disconnected characters. After viewing this film as a personal stop-motion enthusiast, I was left amazed at the fact that I have truly not seen another animated film that is as daring towards conventions and simultaneously masterfully crafted in the way that this film establishes itself. For me, this film stands as a beacon of opportunity for the future of genre-bending adult animation.

The first chapter of this film proves to be the strongest, as it presents a chilling fantasy of a family stuck in a deal residing in a home that supernaturally consumes souls. Designed with human figures with disturbingly smushed faces, this story aligns most closely with the horror genre that would make younger audiences uncomfortably too scared to watch. From the discomforting silences of slightly inhumane characters to the various shots that encapsulate the strange atmosphere of the house, this chapter introduces the success of a non-kid-friendly horror genre produced through stop motion animation.

THE HOUSE. (L to R) Matthew Goode as Raymond, Mark Heap as Mr. Thomas, Eleanor De Swaef-Roels as Isobel, Claudie Blakley as Penny, and Mia Goth as Mabel in THE HOUSE. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Straying away from the horror genre but exquisitely presenting a psychological thriller story, the next chapter is a whole new world where humanoid rats are at the center. Personally, this chapter stands as my favorite of the three because it is reminiscent of the film, Mother! (2017), which presents an unusual allegory through unwelcomed home occupancy. The majority of the rat characters act in particularly unusual ways that parallel the events that occur within Mother!. Another addition to the story’s complexity is the character design in combination with the insertion of artistic scenes invites the audience to uncover the underlying meanings behind the narrative. An alarming amount of insect vermins that are present in this chapter adds to the discomfort as well as possible metaphorical allusions that the audience has the opportunity to uncover.

The most cinematically surreal of the three narratives is the last chapter, a striking world full of pastel hues and eclectic cats. This chapter stands as the tamest throughout the film’s entirety due to its wholesome nature rather than presenting a horror-thriller affiliated story. Contextually, the role of the house in this film relays yet another statement; the house exerts a desire to hold onto the past. I thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic change in genre with this last chapter, because it digresses from the intense mind-bending eariness of the previous stories and wraps the film up with an aesthetic cat-led adventure.

THE HOUSE. (L to R) Susan Wokoma as Rosa, Helena Bonham Carter as Jen, Paul Kaye as Cosmos, and Will Sharpe as Elias in THE HOUSE. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Ultimately, The House presents a deeply meaningful and beautifully-orchestrated anthology of a home’s role in various worlds. Each story upholds a strikingly different cinematic style in which every detail is carefully crafted without hesitation. Within the current mainstream stop-motion animation filmmaking world, the majority of these films are catered to younger audiences. Take for instance the acclaimed films, Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Coraline (2009), Paranorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014), Kubo and the Two Strings (2016). While I have absolutely nothing against these films–for they were very influential in my childhood–they are all PG-rated films that follow wholesome stories that revolve around relatively young characters and their young lives. In these films, you’ll find a prominence in musical numbers, children as the main (or supporting) protagonist, and a lack of mature content. The House, on the other hand, takes all of these conventions and crafts an adult version of stop motion animation that produces extreme discomfort, suggestive language, and mature themes. What I enjoy the most about the film is the way in which each chapter of obscure storytelling provokes the audience to analyze the deeper meanings of the film in both subtle narrative details and the overarching ideas behind the anthology. So, in the event that you are craving something tasteful to watch on Netflix, give The House a watch and prepare to be thoroughly immersed, entertained, uncomfortable, and stunned at the animated work of art.

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