Paperhouse Review

Everything that Anna, a very ill 13 year-old, draws then enters her dreams. They start to take a frightening turn and as she tries to amend the drawings things just get worse.

by Phil Thomas |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jun 1989

Running Time:

96 minutes



Original Title:


Thirteen-year-old Anna (Charlotte Burke) is ill. After one of her periodic faints she dreams of exploring a house on a moor that is an exact replica of her childish drawings. She remains calm enough in the face of this odd state of affairs until her dreams, as dreams will, turn nasty. During her waking hours she amends her drawings, adding a young lad, Marc (Elloit Spiers), toys, games and ûunfortunately for her- Daddy (Ben Cross). Everything she draws enters her dream, but when she scrawls her father, who in reality keeps gadding off to work in the Middle East, heÆs not the saviour she'd hoped for. The dream plunges into nightmare and reality and fantasy become inextricably entwined. The Marc of her drawings turns out be a real person, mortally ill in hospital and tended by her family doctor.

Paperhouse is an impressive first feature by director Bernard Rose, better known for his pop promo work on Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax, and a 13-year-old newcomer Burke is convincing throughout as the hapless Anna. Her scenes with Ben Cross (he may look friendly but don't trust that smile) are excellent- frightening and moving in roughly equal measure.

The relationship between reality and fantasy is hard to sustain, however, and many questions dangle. Why is Daddy so anti-social in Anna's dreams? Does working in the Gulf really turn you into a total monster? And why is Marc the picture of health one minute, and at death's door the next? The failure to tie up these and other loose ends mars an otherwise imaginative feature which veers neatly between the chummy bonhomie of blue skied fantasies and darkest terror.

Whilst convincingly played, imaginative and impressive for a first feature it doesn't tie up enough loose ends to make this an all-round satisfying cinematic experience.
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