THE HOUSE (a.k.a. Huset) (a.k.a. The Winter Siege) *** Norway 2016 Dir: Reinert Kiil. 90 mins
In this effectively chilling wartime horror, two German soldiers (Frederik Von Luttichau, Mats Reinhardt) capture a gangrenous Norwegian soldier (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen) during an unforgiving Scandinavia winter in WWII. They come across an abandoned house with the radio on, food on the stove…and something at the window.
Then there are the occult symbols, the unsettling kids’ drawings, the fact that the camera lingers a little too long on what seems an innocuous shot of an empty room. This smartly takes time to allow these two men to share anecdotes about relationships, thoughts of home, comical insecurities (a romance saved by a dildo!) and poignant recollections of watching Disney films at the cinema before joining up. In a quiet moment rife with both fear and sadness, one of them asks, almost rhetorically, “Do you think we’ll win?” These characters are just as likely to be kept awake at night by the all too real thoughts of what they have done in service to their Fuhrer as they are by the quietly alarming signs of a different kind of all-powerful evil at work. Director / co-writer Kiil steers clear of explicit horror for most of the film, sustaining a sense of unease via nothing more elaborate than slamming doors, the blurring of day and night, ominously empty frames and the discovery of an unsettling journal. In fact, it’s when the script resorts to hand-on-shoulder fake scares and all-too-familiar possession / creepy little girl shtick that this claustrophobic, taut, well-acted picture loses its way.
Review by Steven West