“The House” (“Huset”)
A Mysterious House with a Cursed Past
Two Nazi soldiers become stranded in the snow with a Norwegian POW seek shelter inside a mysterious house haunted by a cursed past in Reinert Kili’s “The House”, a creepy, thought-provoking ghost story. Set in the frozen wilderness of Norway during WWII, the two German soldiers escorting a Norwegian soldier and prisoner of war find the weather is taking a toll on them. They find an empty house near the forest where they believe that they can get some rest but what seemed to be a warm and welcoming shelter is sinister and deadly. “The House” is a slow-burn supernatural haunter with an arthouse aesthetic whose emphasis is on aura instead of action.”
Nazi officer Kreiner (Mats Reinhardt) and German soldier Fleiss (Frederik von Luttichau) are lost and stranded in a snowy Norwegian forest. Fleiss thinks about killing Rune (Sondre Krogtoft Larson), the injured POW who is slowing them down, but Kreiner tells him to forget murder for the moment. They have a more urgent matter of finding shelter if they are to survive this harsh winter weather. They finally find sanctuary in the form of a remote house standing alone among the trees. While their Norwegian prisoner hobbles alongside them, the two Germans search the building and to find hot food on the stove, a flag waving in the front yard, and a radio blaring the news, but no one is at home. There doesn’t seem to be a soul in sight, except for the ghosts of something sinister that happened here who are about to haunt each man.
As they spend more time in the house, Kreiner and Fleiss sense something supernatural is behind the white crosses adorning the walls and symbols scrawled on a closet door upstairs. When the men begin encountering visions of people from their pasts who could not possibly be there, they begin questioning if they have somehow stepped into some kind of psychological Hell from which there may be no escape. The movie’s uphill battle starts with Kreiner and Fleiss who have a loose good cop/bad cop dynamic going on, at least when it comes to dealing with Rune their POW. Kreiner has the more favorable personality of the two. Yet because both men are Nazis, their characters inherently read as bad cop/worse cop, an audience today will not sympathize with German WWII soldiers simply on principle and that is quite a principle.
Rune blends so far into the background that we might forget he is even in the house as an active part of the plot with the other two men. This is an excellent exercise in atmosphere above anything else. Reinert Kiil crafts a compelling, simple concept from a chilly, wintry setting with intriguing period tones. Connecting with its creepiness just requires a deep appreciation of sneaking down haunted hallways, the sound on non-stop nt creaking and the persistent metronome of a pendulum clock among others.
“The House” has it where it counts for atmospheric fear factor. Its fiction however, is a bit too obtuse to give the additional lift needed to be something more than “okay” for this kind of movie. The house that they entered appears to have been recently lived inbut no one is inside. White crosses adorn the walls and strange runes are found drawn on a closet door. While Rune is prone and suffering from his gangrenous wound, Fleiss replaces the Norwegian flag flying outside with a Nazi one and briefly sees a woman in the house’s window. Kreiner finds children’s drawings and what appears to be a handwritten guest book whose cover bears the same symbols as the closet door upstairs.That night, Kreiner and Fleiss are woken by screams to find Rune inexplicably moved to a bed upstairs. Fleiss explores more of the house and encounters a vision of Susanne, his lover from back home. Other instances of paranormal activity continue throughout the house and occassional flashbacks show the exorcism of a girl named Lise. Rune examines the handwritten book and Fleiss recognizes that the symbols on the cover match the ones on the closet door. Fleiss and Kreiner open the closet door, but nothing is inside.
Looking closer at the book, Kreiner notices that it is written in multiple languages and warns of something evil in the upstairs closet. Uncomfortable in the house, Kreiner insists that they leave. Because Rune’s leg injury would skow them down, the soldiers leave Rune behind. Once a bit away, Kreiner tells Fleiss that inside the house, he saw a little girl named Ingrid whom he killed with gas at a concentration camp. Fleiss tells Kreiner that he allowed Rune to live because he tried saving fellow soldier Max, even though Max died. Rune is attacked by a woman in the house and Kreiner and Fleiss hear a gunshot from that direction. They discover that the path they had been following inexplicably leads them back to the house. They find Rune in the snow and take him inside where they see the house is back to the exact same state it was in when they first arrived. Rune becomes possessed and Kreiner tells Fleiss that the house will not let them leave and the only way to escape might be to figure out the house’s complete story. Then the book suddenly moves on its own and black lines that resemble vein creep across the closet door. Kreiner experiences another vision of Ingrid.
Kreiner insists that they must investigate the closet upstairs but Fleiss refuses, saying that is what the house wants them to do. Fleiss instead shoots and kills Rune before running into the forest. Fleiss follows a vision of his fallen comrade Max to a noose where a woman weeps blood at the feet of a possessed girl swinging from the rope. Fleiss runs back to the house where the cycle starts again.
Kreiner acts as though he has just entered the house for the first time and Rune is alive again. More craziness ensues but you will have to see it for yourselves. The feeling and dialog throughout the movie leaves us with a numb and chilling feeling. There are many jump scares, some work and some don’t.