Let’s find out whodunnit.
The Strange House is a new German horror film recently put on Netflix. We follow a family as they move to a remote village so mother Sabine (Julia Koschitz) can do research on a local cave. Older son Henrik (Leon Orlandianyi) fulfills the role of mopey and sad teen who is mopey and sad. Younger brother Eddi (Benno Rosskopf) is given a pet slug in lieu of a clear personality.
The creepy house reveals itself to be haunted quickly. A mother poisoned her two children long ago (so the story goes…) and now the house is haunted by the tormented spirits of the dead. Henrik reluctantly befriends local oddball Fritz (Lars Bitterlich) who knows all about what happened. They recruit Ida (Marii Weichsler) once Eddi begins acting weird.
Through Eddi’s sleep/possession state we learn that the original mother did not hurt her children, and now the kids must solve the mystery before the spirits overtake them.
The film leans on its inspirations to an extreme extent. We have part Goonies and part It with the setting and vibe. Young teenagers working together to save the day has become a resurgent trope in recent years and this time we get a German take on the new subgenre. The film doesn’t do anything wrong with the setting, but it also does nothing new. Given the pre-teen/teen audience this is geared for it could work as “baby’s first horror movie” in a lot of ways.
There aren’t enough meaningful scares to truly make this a horror film. It is more like a ghost mystery than anything else. However, I was also disappointed with the resolution of the mystery as it becomes an untrue whodunnit. We aren’t given enough information or access to the characters to ever be able to guess who is guilty, which is a damn shame. Reshaping this to add more audience participation would drastically increase watchability and rewatchability.
The film succeeds with good characters. I was worried when Henrik’s introduction made him just another pissed off teen, but he grows as a person here. The characters are the main driving force, and the film does excellent work with them all. Each of the teens is clearly distinct and adds something to each scene. Younger brother Eddi is the only one who remains a little flat.
Strong characters in a simple story—a story that is also familiar. If you’re a fan of this subgenre this one will provide a nice viewing evening. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with the movie. I think it makes for a fine night out. However, there isn’t anything unique to this one, either. For folks wanting something more inventive, I think you might be disappointed.
A fun one to watch. Would be great for younger viewers.