Film Review: Paperhouse (1988)

SYNOPSIS:

Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house she has drawn herself and occupied by a young disabled boy. But as she discovers more of the links between her fantasy world and the mundane present, she is drawn only deeper into a dream turning into a nightmare.

REVIEW:

Director – Bernard Rose
Starring – Charlotte Burke, Elliott Spiers, Glenne Headly

I can’t draw. One of those talents that I wish I had but for some reason just can’t seem to grasp. In the movie Paperhouse, our heroine Anna likes to draw. Perhaps a little too much. You see, when Anna starts to draw a house in her sketchbook, she starts to see the house in her dreams. And every time she adds something to the drawing, presto, it appears in her dreams.

Paperhouse is a British movie that came out in 1988. Some stores had this shelved in the horror section but that is a little bit of a stretch. IMDB has this listed as a drama, fantasy, horror. I’d say that is closer to the correct order. Actually, I did jump twice so sure, there are some horror elements, but for the most part I found myself drawn in (no pun intended) to the adventures of our young lead, Anna, a girl who likes to have her sketchbook by her side.

So much so that she gets in trouble at school for it. Add to the fact that she pulls a chair out from one of her classmates well, can anyone say detention? And on her birthday, no less. But Anna has other plans. She pretends to faint in the school hallway and it isn’t long before her mom comes and gets her.

On the way home Anna admits to pretending to be ill and her mother promptly turns the car around and drives her back to school, much to Anna’s protests. But Anna is one smart student. She ain’t going back inside. Nope, she calls over one of her friends and they decide to take the rest of the day off from school.

But when they decide to play a game of hide and seek, things take a turn for the worse. Anna trips in an abandoned tunnel and passes out, this time for real. And when she does she sees herself in the drawing that she recently worked on. It is of a house out in the middle of a field with nothing else around it for miles. When she knocks no one answers.

Eventually, back in reality, Anna is rescued by the police and brought home. The doctor recommends that she get plenty of sleep but Anna wants to draw some more. She adds a boy in one of the windows and wouldn’t you know it, he appears in her dreams. His name is Marc and he can’t move his legs. Soon the drawing becomes an obsession of Anna’s and as her friendship with Marc deepens, an outside force threatens to pull them apart.

Paperhouse is a solid film that while not a horror movie, gives the viewer a sense of satisfaction for having seen it. I will say the end seemed a tad hokey and I wasn’t quite sure why the filmmakers didn’t end it two minutes earlier but oh well. Thank goodness it doesn’t hurt the overall impact of the film.

Director Bernard Rose (who four years later would go on to direct the horror classic Candyman) does an excellent job taking us into the dream world of Anna. The sets in the world are minimalistic but very effective and add to the overall mood, which can go from pretty and serene to dark and foreboding.


The entire cast does a wonderful job in their roles, with the standout being Charlotte Burke as Anna. Veteran actress Glenne Headly is great as Anna’s mom, a busy woman who tries to do what is best for her daughter.

Overall I would have to recommend Paperhouse if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary. Be warned, this is not a horror movie in the traditional sense and has a lot more dramatic and fantasy elements instead. The movie carries a theme of friendship, affirmation and in a way, redemption. This won’t be for everyone but for those that watch it I think you will enjoy it.

Paperhouse (1988)

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2 Responses to Film Review: Paperhouse (1988)

  1. Steve says:

    I’ve seen this a few times and I agree it isn’t really a full-on horror film, but it is good. I think the darkest part of the film is probably when Anna’s father has been blinded and comes looking for her. That bit is quite scary.

  2. TonjaRin says:

    Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house

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