Director – Bernard Rose
Cast – Charlotte Burke, Elliott Spiers, Glenne Headly, Ben Cross, Gemma Jones, Samantha Cahill, Jane Bertish
Release Year – 1988
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I first heard of Paperhouse while searching for rare horror films from the 70s and 80s, and immediately pounced on the opportunity to finally give this one a watch. While not an outright horror film and more of a drama/fantasy, Paperhouse still gives us a fairly strong horror element to warrant this review, and comes with a very enjoyable and captivating story sure to leave you with a memorable experience.
Anna, a young social outcast misunderstood by all who know her, one day discovers a magical link between a drawing pad she owns and her unconscious dream state. She is captivated by a mundane house containing a young disabled boy that she often sees in her dreams, and as she tries desperately to increase the link between her real life and her fantasy world she inadvertently welcomes a horrific entity that she never saw coming.
Going into this piece I really did not know what to expect. I knew of a strong fantasy element, but I had not clue as to what writer Matthew Jacobs would do with this adaptation of Catherine Storr’s novel. From the get-go we are thrown into the somber and dilapidated world that Anna lives in, constantly bombarded by her nonsensical teacher, classroom bully, misunderstanding mother, and the absence of her father who is constantly working far away from home. When she discovers the link between her drawing pad and her dream state is when the fantasy element kicks in, which starts off subtle at first due to her drawings being of simple fashion, but the element soon grows stronger as Anna spends more and more time in her fantasy world, trying to aid the young boy, Marc, in recovering his ability to walk and eventually leave the home she drew for him. Doesn’t sound very horrific eh? As I mentioned earlier, the horror element in this film is second to both the drama and fantasy element, but I must say that when the horror does kick in it kicks in with full force for the duration of its long sequence. This is sadly the only sequence of horror in the film, but it was worthy enough of my reviewing praise as was the awesome fantasy element sure to please those looking for a simple and unique storyline that everyone can enjoy.
Director Bernard Rose(Candyman) did a great job executing this effort, using the most of what little budget he had to make for a pretty engaging film thanks to great atmosphere and execution that compliments the storyline. We get great usage of Anna, portrayed by Charlotte Burke in sadly her only ever acting performance, and Burke does a fantastic job in moving the story and carrying the film for us. The emotions Anna faces are polar opposites of one another at times, and Burke was very believable while expressing her character, which saddened me when I learned that she failed to continue an acting career with such talent. Rose’s execution of the fantasy element is great, making for a feel-good experience during most of the film, and I am glad to say that his usage of the horror element is dead-on awesome as he used simple yet effective tactics to make for a high intensity horror sequence that aided this film in its uniqueness along with its fantasy and drama feel.
Overall, Paperhouse is a great pseudo-horror film that is sure to please those of you looking for a unique film experience, just do not expect a devout horror film going into this one. The storyline is great and complimented with Rose’s direction it makes for a captivating effort blending multiple genres together into one highly under-appreciated film overall.