Every now and again, a trailer will come along seemingly out of nowhere and just completely blow you away. Such was the case for me with the trailer for Artsploitation’s 2016 Norwegian chiller, Huset (The House). I’ve always been a sucker for foreign horror. The world has so much to offer to captivate our imaginations, and this film was absolutely no exception!
The House takes place during the Nazi’s occupation of Norway during World War II. After losing one of their compatriots, two Nazi soldiers, along with their Norwegian captive, are attempting to reconnect with their unit, but seem to have gotten themselves lost. With the plummeting temperatures and snowy conditions, and their prisoner beginning to suffer the effects of gangrene, they find a seemingly abandoned farmhouse where they can take refuge for the night. But they’re soon to discover they’re not as alone in this homestead as they had originally imagined. Their arrival stirs a sinister presence within the house that’s hellbent on making this stay their final resting place. With their sanity and very survival on the line, will they be able to escape this bedeviled dwelling, or will they be consumed within the walls of The House?
Written and directed by Reinert Kiil (Christmas Blood 2018 – read our review here), The House turns into one wild haunted house ride! From the moment the soldiers arrive in this diabolical abode, the nightmare fuel comes fast and furious. Unexplainable sounds and footsteps, menacing shifting in the shadows, objects moving and turning on and off on their own, and bizarre hallucinations are only the beginning. The only clue to the fate of the previous occupants of this house of horrors is a peculiar guest book, filled with stories and drawings from those ill-fated ex-visitors, adorned with some unusual markings on the cover. There’s a matching set of these mysterious symbols on an upstairs closet door, the room from which all the negative energy in this structure seems to be emanating. Whatever happened within these walls, the house seems determined to make its next hapless victims relive the same suffering. Any and every attempt to escape is thwarted, and their existence is put into an endless loop where all roads can only lead one way: confronting their inevitable fate in that foreboding upstairs room.
I was pretty thoroughly blown away by The House. This was truly exceptional house haunting/supernatural horror fare. Filmed in Norway, the outdoor shots have some absolutely breathtaking views of the snow-covered Scandinavian hills and countryside. But once things move inside, the natural beauty gives way to pure horror bliss! This film has such a heavy, weighty feel to it, the brooding mood and atmosphere is almost suffocating. I think the sound department for The House particularly deserves massive credit, as the magnificent, dramatic score and the effective use of sound did so much to enhance the oppressive feel. There were some solid and well-placed scares throughout and some genuine chills and thrills. The performances were excellent as well. The three main actors definitely sold their fear and paranoia more than convincingly. And while I found the twist ending a little on the disappointing side, I can at least say I didn’t see it coming. An overall effective and interesting storyline was woven here.
There are, however, a few drawbacks. The cinematography, as a whole, is quite good, and the exterior shots are legit gorgeous, but the interiors are a little too much on the dark side, making things rather difficult to see at times. Part of the fun in haunted house films is seeing the paranormal activity. It’s hugely frustrating when you feel like something important is happening, and you’re completely missing it because the sets are too dark or cluttered to the point of distraction. Without giving away any spoilers, I think there were elements they could have elaborated on or developed a little better. Although witchcraft is mentioned at one point, I didn’t feel it was ever clarified what dark arts were at play here or why, or what evil forces were unleashed within these walls. The film is a very efficient hour-and-thirty-minutes, with no real drag, but they could have dug a little deeper.
Other than their brief interactions with their Norwegian captive, which were in English, the rest of the dialogue is in German, so for those of you that find subtitles a deal breaker, this is not your film. One other minor gripe with the subs, at least in the screener I saw, is that text is in white, which works perfectly in the darkened interiors, but in the snowy outdoor landscape, there’s moments those subtitles get lost and are hard to read in those snow-capped conditions.
I also need to address the trailer, which I’ve included below. The trailer was a huge part of what drew me to The House in the first place. It’s a gripping, haunting tease as to what’s in store from this vision of terror. However, I do feel it is a tad misleading. The bulk of the highly tense trailer centers around an exorcism, which does in fact take place in the film, and is undeniably one of the most powerful and creeptastic moments shown. But if you’re going into The House expected an exorcism film, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Although it’s crucial to the story, it’s honestly a pretty minute aspect of the film, and what you see in the trailer is nearly the full extent of it. This is NOT an exorcism film. It’s a haunted house/paranormal film that just happens to have a very effective, tremendously executed exorcism sequence that will turn your blood cold.
A few minor quibbles aside, Huset (The House) is a spectacular piece of genre filmmaking, another colossal winner from Artsploitation Films. For a modest budget film, it doesn’t feel indie. The look and feel rivals anything I’ve seen from the major studios, and the stifling, asphyxiating atmosphere puts many studio blockbusters to shame. It could have benefited from a little more depth, which would have elaborated a bit more on what evil had been conjured here. Still, this is an immensely satisfying film that I highly recommend checking out. It’s a stellar addition to the crop of paranormal haunting films. It’s available now in the US on DVD and VOD from Artsploitation Films and in the ad at the top of the article. Book yourself a vacancy at The House, if you dare.