How the hell has Paperhouse not been released to DVD in the USA? I’m often floored by the remarkable films I stumble upon that have little or no release, so much so that this blog is dedicated to my unreleased film finds. But then there are some films where the lack of release seems downright criminal. Paperhouse is one of these.
Anna is an emotionally troubled and sick child who spends most of her time drawing. One day, she draws a simple house. After a fainting spell which results in a high fever, Anna dreams the house is real, existing by itself in a barren field. Upon awaking she draws a boy in one of the windows. She soon discovers this boy, Marc, is not only now living in her dream house, but he is unable to walk or leave the confines of her drawing. As Anna’s fever worsens, she becomes more obsessed with the dream world she created in her drawings. All the while a nightmarish monster is creeping closer to the children.
The box cover of my worn VHS tape features a quote from a Variety critic calling Paperhouse a “thinking person’s Nightmare on Elm Street,” and that is a great way to open the discussion. Lost in the sickened mind of a child, the film makes no effort to hold onto reality. However sends the viewer head first into the dream-nightmare world. The set design is brilliant, featuring the minimalistic abstract design on the girl’s sketchpad. The piercing score was composed by the great Hans Zimmer, and the director behind this fine flick is Bernard Rose, who would follow up Paperhouse with the genre pic Candyman.
Paperhouse is surreal, making no effort to explain the rules of the dream world or the transition between the degrees of reality. The movie is very simple in its design and plots, yet in this simplicity lurks layer upon layer of depth and unanswered questions. The entire cast of Paperhouse is great, but accolades go to the two children who carry the bulk of the film. The role of fever-ridden Anna is played by Charlotte Burke, who shockingly never did another film after this one. The role of Marc is preformed by Elliot Spiers, who several years later would die from a side-effect to anti-malaria drugs.
Paperhouse is questionably described by several online movie sites as being a kids’ flick, since the two protagonists are both children and the film features no gore, but I question this label. This movie has some seriously freaky moments, including the fact that the hammer-wielding monster that is stalking the children looks like Anna’s father. Additionally, the movie features multiple adult themes, like the fact that Anna’s father suffers from severe alcoholism causing him to be abusive and ultimately resulting in him leaving Anna and her mother. Not exactly kid’s stuff. Plus, most of the movie bounces back and forth between realty and a twisted fevered brain. I can see this movie appealing to some younger audiences, but a kid’s movie it is not!
So, you may ask as well you should, why has this remarkably artful fantasy horror flick never been released to DVD is the states? Got me! I’ve tried researching if there is some type of copyright problem or back-story, but my labor has returned few answers. Paperhouse is available on DVD in most of parts of the world… just not the USA. The movie was released to VHS back in 1988 by Vestron pictures. Dust off your old clunky VCR, and you can watch a used Paperhouse VHS for about $6 from Amazon. But I still have hopes of an eventual DVD release that’s loaded with bonus features and interviews. Maybe if I just draw a picture of it…
Also (and I probably shouldn’t mention this), Paperhouse is available on YouTube in its full version. I usually would not encourage people to pilfer movies illegally like this, but as I said before, the lack of release on this movie is pretty much criminal, so I encourage you to watch this film any way you can!