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  Strange House, The Spooks loose about this hoos
Year: 2020
Director: Daniel Prochaska
Stars: Leon Orlandianyi, Benno Rosskopf, Julia Koschitz, Marii Weichsler, Lars Bitterlich, Michael Pink, Inge Maux, Elfriede Schüsseleder, Finn Reiter, Lisa Stern, Christina Cervenka, Lizbeth Eden
Genre: Horror, Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Still grieving for his late father sulky sixteen year old Hendrik (Leon Orlandianyi) is understandably unenthused about mum Sabine (Julia Koschitz) relocating the family from a big German city to a nowhere village in southern Austria. It does not help that their new house seems to be haunted. Strange noises are heard from the attic while a ghost seemingly compels Hendrik's kid brother Eddi (Benno Rosskopf) to scrawl cryptic messages on their bedroom wall. While most of the locals prove hostile, Hendrik earns an admirer in pretty and resourceful Ida (Marii Weichsler) and dorky young mystery fan Fritz (Lars Bitterlich). Both of whom help identify the ghosts as Ralf and Roland Polzman, two children supposedly murdered by their own mother. All is not as it seems however as the ghosts tell Hendrik they want revenge.

For a film ostensibly aimed at a family audience this German made young adult ghost story displays a commendable commitment to creepy imagery and suspense. Making his feature film debut director Daniel Prochaska cranks up the atmosphere whilst also referencing horror classics via fog-swamped graveyard, Dario Argento-esque lighting, subliminal edits and an opening aerial tracking shot cribbed from The Shining (1980), complete with eerie synth theme very reminiscent of Wendy Carlos' score for the Stanley Kubrick classic. On the flip side some broad performances, chiefly among the adult supporting cast, and goofy humour mark Das Schaurige Hause (literally: The Scary House although streaming on Netflix as The Strange House) as kids movie. Even so moments of psychological suspense coupled with the script’s surprising abundance of f-bombs skew it slightly towards the older end of the adolescent market.

Talky and slow paced the film still assembles a reasonably compelling ghost story-cum-murder mystery. It does so via creepy little vignettes gradually unravelling the sinister family drama behind the haunting. Prochaska’s stylish direction pulls off some nice throwaway eerie moments. As when the freaked out child heroes drop a Polaroid camera that slowly reveals a snarling ghost. Or when Hendrik walks by a mirror unaware a spectral Ralf Polzman is staring at him. It is worth noting however that for many German film critics the film's charms rest partly with its pointed culture clash observations, something likely to fly over the heads of most international viewers. The young leads, while likable, are deadpan to the point of somnambulant although Lars Bitterlich makes an impression as Fritz, a would-be junior ghost-buster with a dorky bowl-cut and awkward social skills. As ghost stories go the plot, adapted by co-writers Marcel Kawentel and Timo Lombeck from a novel by Martina Wildner, is standard with no surprises. Yet it is played with a conviction and commitment to creepiness rare in mainstream family fare.


Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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