“The Strange House (Das schaurige Haus)” is a screwball German mystery-dramedy about kids in search of who is haunting this house some of them have moved into, and why.
Something or former someones are “possessing” two brothers, new kids in town, at times. Who are they, what are they, and what might they want from this life that their last one lost?
There’s not a lot to this, and if you’re looking for straight-up frights, you’ll be let down. But I laughed more than once at these kids trying to get answers for the unexplainable.
The neighbors give the new family — mother Sabine (Julia Koschitz), littlest son Eddi (Benno Rosskopf) and teenaged Hendrik (Leon Orlandianyi) — a Slovenian version of The Stink Eye when they show up in their Jeep XJ, with all their family possessions packed into a trailer Mom is towing. And it’s not just because they’re “Krauts” moving into the Slovenian border country (with Austria).
They’re moving into a house that “looked less crappy online,” Henrik notes, even as the icky realtor (Michael Pink) gives them the hard sell. There’s salt in front of every door, “for the snails,” the realtor assures them. And darned if there aren’t a lot of those. Bug-nut Eddie notices.
Their next door neighbor greets them with an unfriendly “Let’s see if you last longer than the others (in German with English subtitles, or dubbed).”
But as Mom has a research job in the nearby mountains’ caves, there’s nothing for it but to make the best of it.
Then little Eddie stats sleepwalking. He starts muttering in Slovenian as he does. He makes markings on Henrik’s walls. And when the flashlight hits the kid’s eyes, they’re black — a dead “We’ve moved into a haunted house” giveaway.
With Mom distracted and away most of the day, Henrik starts fishing around for answers, dodging or trying to dodge the local bullies as he does. Nerdy Fritz (Lars Bitterlich) might
Fritz is a shrimp, a bit prone to fainting but a handy guy to know. Who do you know who speaks Slovenian? Ida (Marii Weichsler), who is Hendrik’s age, does.
“He lives in the Polzmann house and his brother’s possessed by a ghost,” is Fritz’s cute, quick and matter-of-fact summation. There’s nothing for it but to figure out who is speaking Slovenian through the child and what connection they have to the haunted Polzmann house, where a tragic murder-suicide happened 40 years ago.
Seances and questions of the undead, nosing around town, all that comes into play as they try to piece together what this ghost (ghosts) want and what they’re trying to tell them.
Hendrik and Ida piece together the puzzle, and struggle with teen chemistry as they do, with Fritz providing the comic relief as these children do all their digging and sleuthing out of the reach of the adults who won’t believe them, or who have something to hide.
It’s lighthearted and as horror movies go, something of a “Goonies” lark. But low expectations and having pre-teens to watch this with (the target audience) won’t leave you too disappointed.
If you have to watch this in English, be aware of this. The dubbed version scrubs out the testy Slovenian prejudices, their Hitler-inspired antipathy for “Krauts,” who once invaded and occupied their country. These aren’t “Kraut” kids in the English language version, but “city kids” that the locals despise on principle.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, frights and threats of violence
Cast :Leon Orlandianyi, Marii Weichsler, Lars Bitterlich, Benno Rosskopf, Julia Koschitz and Michael Pink.
Credits: Directed by Daniel Prochaska, script by Marcel Kawentel and Timo Lombeck, based on a Martina Wildner novel. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:40