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An emotional and quirky story of childhood existentialism and escapism, this British, fantastical horror haunted me when I was young.

Paperhouse

A young girl struggling with melancholy visits an ailing boy in a dream world she created in drawings. Let’s dig into 1988’s PAPERHOUSE, directed by Bernard Rose!

As I See It

Produced by Working Title Films, which I always assumed was the name of the Coen Brothers production company because they have produced many of those quirky, brilliant movies, this film haunts my childhood. Mainly the scene where Anna’s father stalks them, blind.

The cinematography in this film is easily overlooked. But if you pay attention to the landscape shots, you’ll see a DP with a uniquely keen eye for beauty. An especially eye-pleasing scene was how they shot the detritus-covered train station.

Much of the cast has passed, some tragically. Elliott Spiers, who played Marc, passed away at age twenty after an adverse reaction to an anti-malaria medication.

It may not be packed with wall-to-wall horror. But the scene where Anna’s father is beating her with a rock is one of the most traumatic images I recall from a movie when I was a child, highlighted by a very intense full burn by a brave stunt performer.

The scene where Marc and Anna do “rollovers”, where one holds the other’s feet, and they roll down the hill one over the other like a human wheel, was a seminal scene for me. I was only seven years old, sleeping over at a friend’s house when I saw this film on a small TV. We were up later than we were supposed to be and had just watched Weekend at Bernies, which still holds a dear spot in my film heart.

The TV couldn’t have been larger than nine inches, but it didn’t matter because what I saw on the screen made me so uneasy that I had trouble sleeping over at their house after that.

The few times I caught this film on TV after that sleepover, I always made sure to wait for the “rollovers” scene, fearing I would be stuck in this realm of fear and horror that Anna would journey to in her dreams.

It is a children’s fantasy film at heart with sparse horror scenes, based on a fantasy novel by Catherine Storr called “Marianne’s Dreams”. Yet, my young brain latched onto the horror.

Famous Faces

Glenne Headly (Kate) played Tess in the live-action comic film Dick Tracy alongside Warren Beatty.

Ben Cross (Dad) played Spock’s father in the recent JJ Abrams Star Trek films.

Of Gratuitous Nature

Diving into the mercurial mind of a child offers the opportunity for many types of scenarios. From horrific to romantic, all of it falls under the umbrella of subjective fantasy.

Heartthrob

I recall the score as a kid, but I never knew the story behind it. Apparently, the original score submitted was disliked, so the assistant to the composer (Stanley Myers) stepped in to get a proper score done in time for the film’s release. That assistant was none other than Hans Zimmer. Everyone has an origin story.

Ripe for a Remake

From music videos for bands like Bronski Beat to horror movies like Candyman, I think this may be director Bernard Rose’s magnum opus. A film of deep beauty that is hard to see upon first viewing. I wouldn’t suggest tarnishing such an effort with a remake unless the director themselves felt it necessary and took back the helm.

Spawns

No progeny to report.

Where to Watch

It has not been given a physical release in the US besides the contemporary Vestron Video VHS release. You can stream it on the Roku Channel or Amazon’s Freevee.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3


THE DAILY DIG
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