The Daily Stream: Move Into The House On Netflix

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "The House"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: My youngest son, let's call him "Monster Man," is not a horror movie fan like his mother. He prefers the weird and wonderful world of science fiction, so his Halloween viewing has highlights like "X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes," and Chuck Russel's 1988 remake of "The Blob." At the tender age of eight, he's getting into more advanced storytelling than "Scooby-Doo!" can offer, and so he's gotten adventurous with movie-watching. When he asked to stay up late one weekend and watch the stop-motion anthology drama "The House" with me on Netflix, I hesitated. Check the trailer: it's not exactly "Charlotte's Web." Is this really appropriate for an eight-year-old? I don't want to give him nightmares, but I also remember my own love of genre movies springing from similar afternoons on the couch with my mom, watching a movie that was not made for my demographic. So I relented and got him a glass of chocolate milk and we started the movie from the beginning. 

As the parent, I can confirm: "The House" is not a family movie, per se. But for those minds (young and old) curious enough to check it out, the movie can open the doors to a broader horizon of storytelling.

Why It's Essential Viewing

Directed by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roles armed with Enda Walsh's screenplay, Chapter I is an incredibly dark fairy tale that carries the most intensity of any segment in "The House." This segment starts in the 1800s, a destitute Raymond (Matthew Goode) meets an odd benefactor who makes Faustian promises to return his family to success. What ensues is a "Be careful what you wish for" riff whose central POV is that of the daughter of the family, Mabel (voiced by Mia Goth), who witnesses the metaphorical Monkey's Paw curl its finger and wreak havoc on her parents, inch by inch. It's the same dread-building that Guillermo del Toro put young Ofelia through in "Pan's Labyrinth," the pervasive cosmic danger that an oblivious parent recoils from, but is ever-present for children. Monster Man enjoyed this segment the most, even its incredibly grim (but bloodless) conclusion.

Chapter II rockets forward to the present day, where a property developer is looking to flip the renovated house for quick cash as some unsettling and unexpected guests show up with increasingly bizarre requests. The middle segment of "The House" seizes the rising nervous action of Aronofsky's "Mother!," with director Niki Lindroth von Bahr weaving a more lyrical variation on the themes of identity and transformation. Maybe with its intentionally joyless humor, the better comparison is Jay Roach's "Meet the Parents," ostensibly a comedy but really an introvert's raging nightmare of cringe interactions. In the lead, Jarvis Cocker lays down a meticulous, stratified performance that doesn't seem out of place in the real-world domestic minefields we navigate. It's hard to call Chapter II satisfying, but that's not what it's selling. Like its spiritual kin, Macon Blair's "I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore," the discomfort is part of the entertainment. It didn't turn off Monster Man; instead, he keyed into the unpleasantness without question.

The movie loses some momentum in the third chapter simply because of its tonal shift to whimsy and awe, but director Paloma Baeza tells the tale with graceful yet mighty touches, like the calm pastel palettes in the countryside; they give way to beautifully composed tableaus by the end. The grand finale advances the narrative to the future, where the house sits on a transformed landscape. Landlady Rosa (Susan Wokoma) takes on a Fitzcarraldo-level determination to restore her beloved, busted home to its former glory. 

"The House" delivers the viewer to the back of beyond in the hopes that self-discovery blossoms from the journey, and in that sense, the story is successful and makes for productive repeat watches. As /Film's Chris Evangelista praises, this collaborative effort is "creepy, strange, and, in the end, altogether lovely."

"The House" is currently streaming on Netflix.