Norway has given us some great horror movies, but The House doesn’t quite live up to any of these.
Honestly, I was pretty excited to watch The House, because I love some of the Norwegian horror movies of the past ten years. Whether it’s a dark horror-comedy like Dead Snow (Død Snø) from 2009 or the amazing Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt) from 2006 – the latter has a female lead character, who I’ll gladly compare to a Ripley or Sarah Connor. Both movies also have in common, that they were so popular, sequels were made and they managed to reach an international audience.
When The House begins, we actually get a combination of these two iconic horror movies from Norway, but that’s when the comparison ends. The story does take place during World War 2, but there’s no comedy involved whatsoever.
You should also know, that while this is a Norwegian movie, the main language is German, a bit of English and only a few lines in Norwegian. This is the result of having three main characters, where two are German soldiers and one is a Norwegian civilian, who only speaks Norwegian and English. This works well for the story and film as a whole, because most people watching won’t understand all the languages.
Well, except for Scandinavians, who tend to have some understanding of all the Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian), while also speaking English, and most of us have had German in school as well. Yeah, we’re just cool like that – many of us also speak French or Spanish, so never assume a Scandinavian can’t understand whichever language you’re speaking. Fair warning hereby given for tourist purposes.
Anyway, getting back on track, The House starts out with the three main characters being trapped out in the cold on a Winter day in the mountains in Norway. Just before nightfall, they come across a house. Naturally, we all know that this is The House. And we also know they shouldn’t enter, but since the alternative is dying outside in the cold, they’re understandably happy to go in there. And also quick to take down the Norwegian flag and put up the very clear symbol of which war is being fought: The swastiska. At first, the house is nice and warm, but of course, this doesn’t last long.
A beginning that grabs your attention, but an ending that can’t hold it
You have to really pay attention when watching The House. There are lots of little details, and I’m sure I missed many of them. And even though I love that kind of work, when watching a horror movie, it just became way too much. It demands a lot of the audience, and we are already working with dialogue in three different languages. It turns into a Paranormal Activity kind of experience, where you find yourself looking at every single object in the room to try and catch something changing. Unfortunately, this really takes your focus away from the characters and they’re clearly the strong points in The House.
In fact, the actors are truly amazing in this movie. The three main characters go through a lot, and also offer great insight through stories from their life. It’s engaging and fascinating, so when the focus shifts from this, the movie suffers. The director of The House is Reinert Kiil, who previously made a revenge/exploitation movie called Whore (Hora), which is along the lines of I Spit on Your Grave. Other than that, he has worked on the Norwegian horror hit Dead Snow in the Art Department, so he’s definitely a huge fan of the horror genre. Kiil (awesome name for a horror director, right?!) also wrote the script, with translation from Jan Helge Lillevik, because, again, there is dialogue in three languages.
I have to say, I was thinking my review would end with at least a three star (or blood splash) review, after the first 15-20 minutes. But the last half of the movie just drags it down so much. Still, I will say this; There is so much potential in both the style and story, so if Reinert Kiil tightened up the script and pace more, he could have one Hell of a horror movie on his hands.
Spoiler: If you watch the trailer, you should know that it in no way reflects the actual movie. This isn’t really an exorcism film, and the little girl from the trailer is hardly in the movie itself.
The House (Huset) is being released on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD in some countries – which is how I saw it – but it’s also still playing the festival circuit. Honestly, I think the movie is probably better viewed in a dark theater than at home, so give it a shot if it’s playing at a film festival or in limited release near you.
Director: Reinert Kiil
Writer: Reinert Kiil, Jan Helge Lillevik (translation)
Cast: Mats Reinhardt, Frederik von Lüttichau (as Frederik Wolf), Espen Edvartsen
Two German soldiers have taken a Norwegian man as prisoner on a cold Scandinavian winter night during World War 2. They’re thankful when they come across a seemingly empty house out in the wilderness. But, of course, the house turns out to hold more than meets the eye.