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Netflix doesn’t shy away from becoming the most popular streamer for the biggest and best anthology series out there.
From animated rate in Love, death and robots to live action projects including: black mirror and Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting series, the streaming giant is making every effort to achieve that goal. And with anthology shows like Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities also in development for its streaming service, Netflix’s anthology Television broadcast lei will only continue to grow.
Due to the critical reception of similar projects, Netflix should have high hopes for its next multi-narrative production. The House, a stop-motion anthology miniseries from Nexus Studios, earlier work of which includes Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever Disney Plus animated special, seems well positioned to continue the Netflix anthology’s hot streak.
So is it good? In short, yes. The House is a surreal and disturbing horror comedy series that feels like a Wallace and gromit-cum-David Lynch fever dream; The interconnected stories seem like a great representation of how we live our lives in the present. There are some missteps in the overall execution and finale, but The House largely delivers the creepy vibe that the teaser trailer promised to be.
East or west, home is best
Billed as an eccentric, dark comedy, The House follows three tangential stories that take place in different time periods in the eponymous but nameless residence.
The first story, set in the 19th century, is about a poor family who move into “the house” after a chance encounter with a mysterious but creepy benefactor. The second plot is about a nameless humanoid mouse (Jarvis Cocker) in the present who works as a developer and, after taking possession of the building, fights against some unexpected guests while trying to renovate it. The final story takes place in the near future and introduces the audience to Rosa (Susan Wokoma), an anthropomorphic cat struggling to restore “the house” – which was her childhood home – to its former glory.
Unsurprisingly, this is the first story to start the entire miniseries. The house is not built until the sinister benefactor secretly convinces the drunken husband and father of the Raymond family (Matthew Goode) to trade their humble little house for so-called royalty.
But as the butterfly effect theory suggests, Raymond’s seemingly small decision has big, nightmarish consequences not only for his family, but also for the owner of the building.
The events that eventually materialize are psychological horror scenarios, with the ominous and terrifying atmosphere giving way to shocking twists and turns as each story nears its end. Such moments are heightened with the use of stop-motion animation, which the unpredictable and unnatural movements of the characters only make it creepy. Think of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and David Firth’s Salad Fingers – or further back, Ray Harryhausen’s 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts – for a taste of the visual style and tone of The House.
Left in the past
That’s not to say that the use of stop motion at Nexus Studios is obsolete – on the contrary. Sure, the animation style isn’t used much in modern productions, but while Nexus uses stop-motion to add some horror-based artistic flair to the process, the overall animation is pretty fluid. Those unaware of the uses of stop motion and puppetry in Nexus may even believe in the aesthetics of the miniseries. has been Created using VFX and CGI effects – a compliment that shows how seamless some of The House’s animations are.
And it’s not just the application of stop-motion animation that will be an enjoyable experience for some viewers. The second and third stories with their anthropomorphic animals have a distinct Sylvanian Family feel to them; the friendly aesthetic of the 1980s flocked characters created by Epoch that seem to have inspired the look of The House, on top of the somber comedic atmosphere of the miniseries.
The cast and the musical elements of the house also bear witness to past decades. Actors from the 80s and 90s like Miranda Richardson (The Crying Game, Blackadder) and Stephanie Cole (Tenko, Doc Martin) are among the star cast of the show. The inclusion of Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter) is also fitting, as The House occasionally recalls the work of Tim Burton, Bonham Carter’s ex-partner and collaborator.
Speaking of Burton and the aforementioned Wes Anderson, The House is Pretty funny. Yes, the comedy tends to be grinning or giggling rather than laughing out loud, but the subtlety makes it so good in the context of the miniseries. For a show that can be Everyone macabre, a touch of humor releases tension at the right moments.
As for the score of the miniseries, Gustavo Santaolalla (The Last of Us Part II, Narcos) offers some haunting pieces that add even more fear to the show. But it’s the newcomers of ex-pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker and, unexpectedly, Pharrell Williams’ hip-hop rock band NERD that will surprise the audience the most. Cocker lends his voice to the protagonist of chapter two, writes and performs the song for the credits, while the NERD song Lapdance is also used in chapter two – the recording of the duo brings an unusually nostalgic piece of music from the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s in process.
Despite the good elements of The House, it has a few missteps.
First, if you’ll forgive the pun – the final story, after all, revolves around a character named Rosa – the final moments of The House are incredibly rosy. Given the previous two stories, the end of chapter three is something at the optimistic and happy; a finale that contradicts the strangely awkward endings made by chapters one and two.
The house ends pretty abruptly too. Sure, the three-story arch, presumably based on how history is structured to accommodate the past, present, and future, is doing work effectively. But while Netflix and Nexus apparently want viewers to interpret each story and its subjects the way they need to, a little more plot exposure or a proper connection between the trio of stories wouldn’t have gone wrong. A mention bridging the gap between chapters one and two might have been enough to ensure better continuity.
People with epilepsy or other medical conditions that could be made worse by strobe lights should be aware that The House does not include a Seizure Trigger Warning. Since Chapter 2 has flashing lights during a certain scene, the lack of a trigger warning message is definitely a Netflix and Nexus bug.
The House is a quirky, gritty, arthouse-style comedy miniseries that will hang around you for a while after the credits. The loosely connected stories will cast a spell over you with their emotionally resonant story beats and modern stop-motion aesthetics, before the bad twists make you insecure, nervous and even bizarrely hopeful.
The House’s trio of stories leaves enough wiggle room to allow the audience to interpret the chapter titles, themes, and allegorical endings – so much so that you can simply revisit them or search the internet to understand the deeper meaning behind them. . But that’s what the best TV shows, movies, and miniseries do: they make their audience think, and The House certainly does.
It’s not perfect as The House is lost as it replaces the surreal with happier plot elements. And as a three-piece, it feels like it’s over before it really starts. But its quirks, gallows humor and shock value, coupled with its great animation and terrifying attitude, largely make up for its shortcomings. And alongside other Netflix originals set to be released in January 2022, including: Ozarks Season 4“The House is a uniquely designed miniseries that is sure to stand out from its competitors.
The house can be seen exclusively on Netflix from Friday, January 14th.