To define the 1988 fantasy flick Paperhouse
as a mere horror film would be an injustice--although this intelligent and thought-provoking British film is certainly scary in parts. In exploring the world of dreams, director Bernard Rose (Candyman
) offers a far more elegant exposition of the subject than the Nightmare on Elm Street
school of horror. Based on the novel Marianne Dreams
by Catherine Storr, Paperhouse
offers a believable cause for its intensified dreamworld: Anna (Charlotte Burke) falls ill with glandular fever--a fever which will blur her understanding of reality and dreams. It is clear from the start that Anna has an overzealous imagination, holding onto her childhood games while her best friend becomes more interested in boys. Before her descent into illness Anna draws the Paperhouse of the title, and it is this house that dominates her dream world.
Although the acting is rather hammy and the scenes set in reality are tedious, the true beauty of the film comes from Production Designer Gemma Jackson and Cinematographer Mike Southon, whose talents emerge in the dream sequences. Clearly taking inspiration from the Surrealist movement, Jackson recreates a chilling version of Anna's drawing of the house, full of dark shadows and terrifying noises, that perhaps has more in common with Jan Svankmajer's macabre adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice than the innocent childhood offerings of Disney. Ultimately Paperhouse is an exploration of the traumatic transition into adulthood of a young girl on the cusp of her teenage years: at the start of the film Anna "hates boys", but by the end she is sharing her first kiss with Mark, her playmate in the dream world.
On the DVD With a 1.66:1 ratio format and Dolby Digital sound the stylistic brilliance of this movie is much easier to see and enjoy than in its previous incarnations on television and video. The special features leave a lot to be desired, though, offering only an unexciting original trailer and four filmographies for the director and the three main adult actresses. --Nikki Disney
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), WIDESCREEN (1.78:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Filmographies, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: Bernard Rose's Paperhouse is one of the great unknown art house horror films of the last quarter century, just for the sheer vividness of its psychological terrorscape. Once the supernatural link between Anna's crayon and her dream world is firmly established, the film takes the viewer on a hallucinatory trip that's full of foreboding. Given how the slightest alterations of the drawing have repercussions in her dreams -- the boy in the house can't walk, because he was given no legs -- it's with terrific anxiety that the viewer watches Anna violently scratch out the likeness of her father. The nightmare that follows delivers the kind of wordless horror that can only exist in the mind of a child, fixing for the viewer an unforgettable image of the angry paternal figure that lurks in the back rooms of the mind. The scenes outside of the fantasy world are of a slower pace, but they do show the real-world manifestations of Anna's fevered mental state, and flesh out some of the themes that appear in her drawing. Following this visually masterful debut, Rose went on to explore more mainstream horror filmmaking in 1992's Candyman.-Eleven-year-old Charlotte Burke, the neglected daughter of Ben Cross and Glenne Headley, passes out on the school playground and dreams of visiting a house she'd previously drawn in her composition book. She imagines another visit to her 'paper house' while playing hide-and-seek. Experimenting, Burke draws a figure in the window of the house; the next time she dreams, she meets a young boy, as lonely as she. Convinced that she wields a large degree of power in her pencil, Burke draws a picture of her father, Cross, hoping that in doing so he will return hom...Paperhouse (UK)