Two German soldiers, along with their Norwegian prisoner, find shelter in an empty house in the lonely Norwegian wilderness during WWII. But the house may not be that empty after all.
Horror flicks set during WWII aren’t exactly a novelty (see: Dead Snow (and its sequel), Outpost and the recent Overlord, just to name a few). Scandinavian filmmaker Reinert Kiil, who produced, wrote and directed the latest entry into the infamous pantheon of Nazisploitation flicks, imaginatively titled The House (not to be confused with the Will Ferrell 2017 bomb), clearly thought he had something new to add to this sub-genre. Made on a microbudget, with a misleadingly comical Exorcist-like poster, it achieves the feat of both showcasing the director’s skills and being utterly unoriginal.
“…two German soldiers capture a wounded Norwegian trooper…hell-bent on killing ‘the pig.'”
Sometime during WWII, two German soldiers, Jurgen (Mats Reinhardt) and Andreas (Frederick von Lüttichau), capture a wounded Norwegian trooper, Rune (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen,) in a frosty forest. With Andreas hell-bent on killing “the pig,” Jurgen, the elder of the two (both in age and rank), keeps the young man alive to help guide them out of the deep wilderness (and perhaps for other, deeper reasons). The trio stumbles upon a house, which seems like it was abandoned minutes earlier: the radio and lights are on, the food is still warm, the radio crackles with sinister white noise, and there are gently-swaying crosses everywhere. Doors snap shut, windows fling open, lights flicker, and ghostly silhouettes taunt our Nazi heroes – but when they attempt to escape, they end up back at the house, where Kiil’s love of William Friedkin’s horror classic finally comes into play, with lil’ Regan-lookalike roaming the woods (and through multiple flashbacks).
The first forty minutes consist of genuinely unnerving build-up. Kiil and his cinematographer John-Erling H. Fredriksen ensure that we feel the frigid cold; the tension accumulates patiently; the score, by turns minimalist and bombastic, imbues the proceedings with class, as do the actors with credibility. Unfortunately, all that goodwill begins to seep out at about the halfway point – there’s only so much light-flickering one can take before suspense morphs into yawns. From the moment they discover a haunted book straight out of Evil Dead and realize that they may be trapped in hell, the film gradually rolls downhill.
“…minimalist and bombastic, imbues the proceedings with class, as do the actors with credibility.”
The House’s premise opens up many possibilities and subjects to explore, but Kiil doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. More concerning is the film’s jarring continuity, cutting away at crucial moments, just when it sets up a potentially scary sequence. It also (in)advertently humanizes Nazis, as they converse about loved ones at home, the propaganda nature of “Triumph of the Will”, and Jurgen waxes lyrical about a young girl he sent to the gas chamber.
Kiil’s adeptness with visuals and characterizations, coupled with his mishandling of the frightening bits, made me wish he made this more of a character study than a clichéd horror movie. The House doesn’t induce scares as much as faith in the writer/director to do something more interesting next time – and make the title more inventive while he’s at it.
The House (2018) Written and Directed by Reinert Kiil. Starring Frederick von Lüttichau, Mats Reinhardt, Sondre Krogtoft Larsen.
5 out of 10