Nazis, a Norwegian captive, and a haunted house make for supernatural and psychological thrills in Reinart Kiil’s The House. Following up his holiday horror Christmas Blood, Kiil has definitely stepped his game up with his tactics of dread and suspense. Apparently based on a real place called Skarnes Farm in Norway, Kiil’s chronicles an unnerving legacy with flashbacks to an exorcism and sets up on an unnerving case that came out of the German expansion into Norway during World War II.
Films that feature Nazis as protagonists seem to go one of two ways, either we watch in hope that they die horrible deaths or we for a moment remember that many were simply men; each with their own ideas and thoughts despite the uniforms they wore. The film opens on a squad of German soldiers taking fire, losing a comrade and taking a Norweigan soldier captive. The younger soldier (Fleiss) wants to shoot the enemy, but his captain (Kreisser) asks what he would prefer if he were a captive. Immediately a dichotomy is set within the squad, the young fanatic and the elder of wisdom. This is where Kiil does an excellent job at establishing an unexpected empathy that allows the horror to become effective once they reach The House.
Tired, starving and lost the soldiers and their captive come along a clearing where a large house sits in a vast winter field. Armed and eager for shelter, they decide to take the house. Low and behold it’s an easy victory as it appears no one is there. Though something definitely seems off as there is signs of something living within the house; the radio is on, a pot of stew sits on the stove and a mysterious guest book is found with strange nordic rune insignias. Before turning in for the night, there’s a discussion on the life before war where Kreiner reveals he was an architect before the draft and a discussion on film reveals he doesn’t like the propaganda of famed German film Triumph Of The Will. When asked by Fleiss if he believes they will win the war Kreiner responds “We already have, we’ve changed history forever.” A rather conflicted response prompts tension and averts to talk of girls and eventually slumber.
As in any haunted house movie, the first night is filled with strange noises. Things bang around, radios and lights flicker with sudden currents of electricity and things feel a bit spooky. The next morning they wonder if someone still lives in the room upstairs. A strange closet marked with the same runes as the notebook is discovered in a bedroom and a flashback cuts to an exorcism taking place in the room. While it may not be a person, it soon becomes clear something lives inside the house. Kreiner rights it off as superstition but younger Fleiss begins to suspect evil is in the house. There is then talk of leaving and Fleiss offers to leave first. He makes his way back through the forest only to suddenly arrive at the very house again. It becomes clear that they are trapped. The house will not let them go and from here it all gets worse. The Norweigan dies and comes back to life, Kreiner reveals the horrors of Kristalnacht to young Fleisser and the two begin to turn on each other as more flashbacks reveal the exorcism trapped a demon in the house. Trapped and driven to madness the two soldiers turn on each and ulimately kill each other in a double-murder… and so another passage is written into the guest book of The House on Skarnes Farm.
The House is very effective at utilizing its confined space to make us feel claustrophobic and keeps its arrangement of shots interesting and different so as not to wear out the space. Watching the two German soldiers pace and become mad as The House torments them is a satisfying surreal burn down into the explosive conclusion. The cinematography and editing keep a good pace that keeps the suspense intact at all times with its various fixtures of strange markings, sudden noises, exorcism flashbacks and a mysterious closet. While most of the scares rely on good ‘ol fashioned jumpscare audio cues, the real horror moreso lies in watching the two German soldiers begin to unravel against their creeds, their uniforms and themselves into a violent end.