Horror fans familiar with Norwegian genre films are well aware of their usual snowy setting, but for the handful of titles out there, it’s shocking to see the region’s limited offerings when it comes to haunted house or ghost stories. That’s where The House (also known as Huset) comes in. After all, filming in an abandoned mental institution where the film crew found a coffin is bound to make a terrifying film, right?
Taking place during the second World War, The House is about two German soldiers, Jurgen and Andreas, carrying a Norwegian hostage and prisoner on a cold winter day. While lost in the woods, the soldiers feel that luck is on their side when they stumble across an abandoned house. But that luck soon runs out when they take notice of the house’s strange persona. An ominous guest book, a self-operating radio, and a mysterious closet door is only the beginning of their nightmares.
Writer/director Reinert Kiil really steps up his game with this one. Kiil has written and directed genre films in the past, but he was able to exceed his previous works here with only 12 days and a budget of 90 thousand euros to work with. I don’t know if you know, but that’s impressive. Directing aside, I must give kudos to the cinematographer, John-Erling H. Fredriksen. Every single frame is gorgeous. The opening scene alone has a drone POV shot that is absolutely stunning. That said, the entire movie is filmed in a dark setting, so there are several shots that will be hard to enjoy if you aren’t watching in a pitch black room.
As far as the writing goes, Kiil masters the slow-burn of this real-life haunted house. The story takes on a steady and swift flow, even though the approach of slow-burn storytelling is taken, it doesn’t take long to get to the good stuff. There’s also very much a sense of ambiguity throughout the film. The unknown; however, only adds to the horror and suspense. The dark, yet vague, ending leaves a lot of room for interpretation making this one a fun mystery to solve, but perhaps not best for those that enjoy their stories tied up in a pretty bow. There’s also a ton of well-written dialog between the soldiers as well. And for what its worth, although this is a Norwegian film, most of it is in German.
The cast of three is the standout point. The actors do a great job conveying one on one conversations. Not only are they able to deliver their lines well, but they wear the fear on their face effortlessly. Even though very little background is given about each character, the audience will still be able to feel the different levels of emotion within them. Everything from the transition from overconfident Nazi Germans to terrified soldiers; you will walk through the gates of hell alongside the film’s characters.
Even if you leave the theater feeling confused by the story, there’s no denying that this is a well made, visually pleasing film. The use of sound, great acting, and well fitted jumpscares all combine to make a fantastic and dreadful atmosphere. This is a horror film that does Norway justice.
If you haven’t seen the trailer already, then avoid it at all cost. Not because it gives away too much, but because the film is completely different from what the trailer makes it out to be, it’s even better.
The House opened in Norway back in March and screened at the 2016 LA Screamfest.
The House [Screamfest Review]
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