Paperhouse (1988) – Film Review
If you want to see a couple of pre-teen kids snogging full-on with tongues then this could be the film for you.
Only joking (obviously) but it is a pretty gross scene. Awwww! (I said). These two endearing young children are about to share their first sweet little innocent kiss……OH HANG ON. This is weird. I was expecting a peck on the cheek not swirling tongues digging shapes into cheeks.
But anyway, despite all that stuff Paperhouse is probably worth a watch if you don’t care about things looking too dated and you DO like things to be odd, creepy and generally quite weird.
The story, set in England, follows a young girl called Anna (quite stroppy) who is confined to her bed with glandular fever. To pass the time she draws a house (PAPERHOUSE) and subsequently discovers she can visit the house ‘for real’ in her dreams.
She flits between real life and Paperhouse making changes along the way (not always good ones) as we – the confused but quite happy viewers – try to work out just what the hell is going on.
Directed by Bernard Rose (of Candyman fame) Paperhouse does feel moderately low budget and even has dodgy acting – but I did enjoy it. As well as being creepy in a surreal, almost nightmarish way (which I always like) there were other factors I appreciated, such as Anna’s friendship with Mark – a boy she draws into the house, who cannot walk. Apart from their weird kiss I found their relationship genuinely sweet and quite sad.
The soundtrack (one of the coolest thing about the film), is scored by Hans Zimmer. And whether by coincidence or not, it reminded us at times of the Nightmare on Elm Street score (by Charles Bernstein) – another 80s film of course about deathly dreams.
Based on a book (and generally labelled a ‘fantasy drama’ rather than a horror), there are obviously all these parallels to Anna’s life and the stuff in her dreams with a psychological edge evident. Whether a ‘coming of age’ type of thing or just trying to illustrate typical angst of a young girl who’s parents argue, Paperhouse is definitely trying to be more than just a scary story. But to be honest, I liked the scary bits the most.
The house itself is very scary and foreboding. The visuals in this film are pretty decent. All of Anna’s her dream segments are screwy and disturbing in some way. It’s implied she has issues with her alcoholic, often absent father – and when she draws him angrily (shudder!) into her picture, you can imagine how terribly wrong it all goes. That scene is SCAAAARRRRRRY.
Despite being a bit retro and odd, Paperhouse definitely has a certain charm. I had watched it before in my teens and remembered it being frightening – which of course made me curious to have a re-watch it now. Whilst not ‘terrifying’ as such, it’s definitely still rather chilling not to mention a tad sinister. To be fair had I watched it on my own (I didn’t) in a pitch black room (not quite) I would have been even more freaked out.
With a bit of unintentional fun thrown in (with its slightly cheap feel and some wooden acting), a certain charm that you often get with old British stuff (SMOKING ON THE TRAIN AND BLOWING SMOKE INTO YOUR KID’S FACE!) and some genuinely bone chilling scenes, Paperhouse is a fun, creepy and definitely worthy film to watch.