A Strangely Cliched Tale
The Strange House is a strange little family spook-fest, armed with strangely cliched ideas and a tired, overdone premise. While the movie serves its purpose and has a few stand-out moments, there’s not enough of it to overshadow the feel of this being a rehash of what we’ve seen a million times before in this medium.
The story begins like many other haunted house horrors. A family move to a quaint little village in the South of Austria. The house they’re moving into is unfortunately cursed, at least if the locals are to be believed.
Forced into packing up his old life and starting anew, 16 year old Hendrik and his brother Eddi have a tough time of it. The fact their house is presumably cursed certainly doesn’t help Hendrik’s prospects of making new friends. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worst when Eddi starts acting strangely and begins sleepwalking.
After one particularly unnerving night, with Eddi etching the word “gobe” on the wall, the brothers set out to try and solve the mystery they’re faced with.
As they begin to dive into the secrets lurking deep within the house, the pair are joined by Ida and Fritz, who round out the quartet group dynamic in much the same way Stranger Things does. In fact, the influences to Netflix’s wildly popular original can be felt everywhere except where it matters most – the character chemistry.
Eddi and Hendrik in particular just don’t gel well together on-screen and the awkwardly contrived romance thrown in feels more like busywork than a genuine attempt at injecting some depth into the story.
Instead, much of the allure here rests on a mystery that sprinkles many clues along the way. There’s so many in fact, that adults are likely to figure this out long before the rushed conclusion. By comparison, kids will miss out on the opportunity to experience this thanks to the off-putting and questionable 15 age rating.
There’s echoes of Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark in the way this material is presented, and tonally the movie could easily be a hit with that age. Unfortunately some sinister scenes hold this back, along with a couple of surprisingly well-timed jump scares. To be honest though, including these feels like a real missed opportunity.
If this was rated a 12, The Strange House would work far more effectively and potentially tap into the same audience that watched The Hardy Boys on Hulu. Instead, this movie exists in a weird headspace where it’s competing with a slew of other, more menacing and gripping horror titles.
In the end though there’s nothing that strange about The Strange House. This simple haunted house horror plays out in the exact way you’d expect, with all the usual cliches and tropes thrown in along the way. The only difference here is that the watered down horror will feel like a bore for adults and feel way too tense for kids. Instead, this film exists somewhere in the middle of these two states, stuck in the limbo of forgettable mediocrity.