The Wolf House Review: A Woman, Her Pigs, A Wolf And What Is Going On With This House?
If you’re into haunted houses you might want to buy this one.
We see a German propaganda film and then an introduction about what brought us to the current state of affairs. Maria, a woman who got punished because she accidentally freed some pigs, runs off into the woods in order to avoid any more punishment. The first words she speaks are haunting, “The wolf is coming. He’s near…” It’s an excellent opening salvo and one that perfectly sets the tone. This is not an easy watch, but stick with it and it’s a rewarding one.
I’ll get the bad out of the way first, even though it’s only a minor slight. It’s a little slow and the relatively short duration is a double-edged sword in that regard. In one way the movie benefits from it because if it was stretched out any longer it would have some serious pacing problems, but because of its length it doesn’t overstay its welcome and the occasional tedium is not unbearable.
This means that while the storytelling is loaded with symbolism and interesting subject matter, it doesn’t always effectively get the point across. There’s a lot to ponder and truth be told, I won’t pretend to understand every specific concept or why this moved here or there. There are little dips that could have been cut out or explored in a more concise way. The depiction and depth of Maria was present, but what surrounded her narratively wasn’t always solid.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t great moments scattered throughout. They are plentiful but there were some periods of time where I wished that the film would just get on with it. Again, a small issue, but one worth nothing because the rest of The Wolf House is enchanting in its grotesque and often times challenging nature.
Start at the animation, which is clearly the star. Even on the occasions where I felt that the narrative anchored it in place and didn’t allow it to reach higher heights, there was always something great to look at. This is in part because of the unbroken way in which it was crafted.
The camera/view drifts gradually with a constant feel. It’s an intimate portrait, it’s as if you’re there. Scenes don’t simply transition in a conventional way; instead of cutting, environments, objects and people change and expose new wrinkles in the art. This constant state of flux is endearing and often works in reverse. Bits and pieces already exist in the rooms, but they finish forming the longer they are there. This feeling is fleeting, however, as they too will breakaway in order to change the scenery.
Very few films in recent years have gone so far to characterize a house or an inanimate object. Maria and her pigs will often literally appear on the walls, for example, and actions will take place on those walls. When you live in a house you mould a history there, and even if you move that is still present. People who move in after you may not know what it is, but that history is there forever. The Wolf House placed me firmly in that mindset, and as I watched everything shift and morph I couldn’t shake that sentiment. It was very personal, the house was an external exploration of what was going on internally.
This was only made possible because every second was intricately planned. Stop motion animation brings with it a certain aesthetic that no other form of animation can. The jerky nature, when used properly, can make a film feel otherworldly. I’m not sure that if the visual storytelling embraced a different style that it would be the same because the plot was married to the atmosphere allowed by stop motion. It helps that it’s a personal preference of mine and was one of the reasons I sought it out to begin with.
I made a small error going in. I expected a scarier film and while the tale itself is horrific, and the visuals are frequently nightmarish (most notably in the way in which things melt away), there are no jump scares and it’s not especially gory. It’s more subtle than that and a better film for it. I still wouldn’t show this to a kid but to be honest, the surreal nature of it would make it difficult to follow anyway.
I would still recommend this to horror buffs who enjoy foreign flicks on the basis of the imagery. The character designs are creepy, fitting with the general spooky aura. When it does get going there’s one particular incident in the final act that sent shivers down my spine, and even one a little earlier on that disgusted me. The usage of minimal music and layered sounds made a massive impact when they were incorporated as well.
These are positives and it’s when The Wolf House is at its best. When it puts all the disparate pieces together and goes all in it connects in a way that is truly special. I wish it could maintain that momentum less sporadically because that would have really put it over for me. With that said, it’s absolutely a great film, as evidenced by my rating below, and it’s worth seeking out if you’re somebody who wants something a little bit different with a unique perspective and artistic vision.
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THAT'S ENOUGH, GET TO THE SCORE
AS GOOD AS HAVING PIG FRIENDS
The Wolf House is definitely an original experience. While I take some issue to the pacing, it’s a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things. Everything else surrounding the plot itself is lovely in a disturbing and inventive way.