“It’s Nazis, a haunted house, and Groundhog Day rolled into one.” That’s the brief description I gave my fiancee when she asked about this review. While I intentionally overgeneralized, there is a lot to like about Reinert Kiil’s Huset (Norwegian for The House). It is far from the average haunted house film, as explained in my ten-word summary above, and managed to make me think just a little differently about the subgenre.
In World War II Norway, three Nazi soldiers become two as Max (Espen Edvardsen) succumbs to his wounds and dies in the frozen forest. Carrying onward with their prisoner, known to them as “das Schwein” (German for “the pig”), Andreas Fleiss (Frederik von Lüttichau) and his commanding officer, Lt. Jurgen Kreiner (Mats Reinhardt) seek shelter from the bitter cold. The group stumbles upon a house in which to settle for the night, but nothing is as it seems. Between memories of past loves, talks of moving up in the ranks, and the erratic behavior of the Norwegian “Schwein,” Huset’s three central characters encounter terrors greater than any war effort could produce.
One scene that caught my attention more than anything was the securing of the house, shortly after the group comes upon it. If they’re operating under the pretense of “people are probably in here; there are lights on, there’s something cooking on the stovetop, and the radio’s on,” then wouldn’t it behoove them to not draw too much attention to themselves? They shut the radio off, they disrupt the cooking already in progress, and do pretty much anything to draw anyone that might have been living in the house towards them. With the power of hindsight, we know this is only so much of a worry, but this still bugs me.
Though it is completely easy to root against the literal Nazis, Fleiss and Lt. Kreiner aren’t as hopelessly one-dimensional as one would assume. Both men come to question their military futures and motives, offering a look at one iota of humanity in these otherwise easy-to-demonize folk. Perhaps it’s the unknowing of what to expect in this house of horrors that poses the questioning, but I’ll take it.
Though haunting movies aren’t usually my cup of tea, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Huset. Clocking in at around 81 minutes, it was a fun watch, with its take on the “cabin in the woods” - or here, house in the Norwegian tundra - trope of horror. The dialogue was well-written, the characters were enjoyable in a “I’ll be more than a little miffed if he dies” sort of way, and the scares were pointed without being gratuitous. It may not be a gamechanger, but Huset is definitely worth a watch, especially if the viewer-to-be has grown tired of the “things that go bump in the night” style of horror.
The House (Huset) is now available from Artsploitation Films.