A great horror movie makes more of an impression on the psyche than any other kind of film. Hell, even a bad horror flick can scar you for life. There’s a phrase that every seasoned horror fan loves to hear: “Have you ever seen . . . ?” For the next 31 days, John E. Meredith will unearth some of his personal favorites that fell through the cracks, that are not so obvious, the kind that might even sneak up on you while you’re trying to sleep. Paperhouse 1988, UK. Directed by Bernard Rose. Written by Matthew Jacobs, from Catherine Storr’s book MARIANNE DREAMS. Starring Charlotte Burke, Elliott Spiers, Glenne Headly, Ben Cross. I had a terrible fever when I was a child. A late-night movie filled the room. Dreamlike, waters rose from beneath the couch, climbing until they reached the ceiling. Underwater, my eyes were open. Books were detaching from bookshelves, floating. Pillows and blankets drifted past like sea creatures. The television levitated above me, still flashing waking images. Submerged, I didn’t breathe. I didn’t have to. My hands drifted out in front of me, fingers like mossy tendrils. Large shapes loomed in the slow-motion distance. I felt their cries more than I heard them. They were whales like mountains, like ancient deities just at the edge of my perception. They had come here to observe me in the slippery, weightless dark. The whales came closer, to serenade me, and the living room had become the sea . . . When I first saw the movie PAPERHOUSE, I thought about my childhood experience. Anna, the eleven-year old girl who is drawing a crude, childlike house as the movie opens, she had some kind of fever. She tries faking sick at first, but then it really happens. Skipping school, she falls down in an abandoned tunnel and passes out. Possibly dreaming, she finds herself out in an open field in front of the house that she drew. When she calls out there’s no one there. Hours must pass in her mind because it is night when she regains consciousness. She wakes to the sound of police radios and flashing blue lights. Her mother takes her to the doctor, who explains that she has a strange glandular ailment which is producing the very real fever. Confined to bed, she starts sketching the barren house, which rests on a windswept cliff, with the sad face of a boy in one of the windows. Anna falls asleep and finds herself outside of the house again. When she calls out “Is anybody there?”, the face of a boy appears at the window above. He says that his name is Marc. She asks him to come outside. He says he can’t because his legs won’t move and she hasn’t drawn any stairs. Then he says that she doesn’t understand, she has to go away. It’s dangerous around here, dangerous. Anna’s father is an ambiguous and mostly absent figure in the reality of her life. There are implications of alcoholism and marital problems, though it’s not made explicit, as everything we see is from a child’s perspective. Eventually, though, she draws him into the picture. He can defend Marc from what is filling him with fear. She gives her father a hammer to use as protection. When she messes up the drawing, giving his face a freaky angry expression, she scribbles his face out of the picture. Later, dreaming, Anna sees her father on a distant hill. But there’s something very wrong. He recognizes her, but has no idea why he is there or what’s going on. His eyes appear to have been ravaged by something, like they’ve been scribbled out. He’s blind, he’s angry and he’s carrying a hammer . . . When it came out in the late ’80s, PAPERHOUSE was hailed as “the thinking person’s NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET,” but that doesn’t paint the right picture. It belongs more in the same category as THE REFLECTING SKIN, CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, or SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, where a child’s world is depicted in an equal measure of terror and magic. While not really a horror movie, there are nonetheless moments which are truly scary. Moments with the disoriented, fractured logic of childhood dreams and nightmares. The freaky house that looks like a child’s drawing. Brooding lopsided windows. Empty spaces filled with purposeless machines. The sensation of helplessness. Of being a passive witness to all of the nonsensical images. All the sensations floating up from the darkest center of the mind. Slowly, floating back from a dream. At the border of the world, large shapes were receding. Becoming shadows to be forgotten. Dissolving into embryonic space, they unfurled one last melancholic cry. It was more like a song. Pillows and blankets swam back to enclose me. The waters descended the walls, spilling back beneath the couch. Books reattached themselves to their shelves. The television floated down to its watchful perch, releasing light that danced on the walls. The fever had gone. [Editor’s Note: PAPERHOUSE can be viewed streaming at Amazon or for free on YouTube.] Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.