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by Daniel Prochaska

grade: 6

Intending – at least in his debut – to follow in his father’s footsteps (at least in part) by devoting himself to the horror genre, in his The Creepy House, Daniel Prochaska had fun drawing heavily on cult films of the past in order to make a light-hearted coming-of-age with disturbing implications, mainly for a very young audience.

That strange mountain house

It is not easy to suddenly change your life. Especially when you are still a child or a teenager. And if, moreover, the new home doesn’t meet the initial expectations, things get even more complicated. Young Hendrik (played by Leon Orlandianyi) and Eddi (Benno Roßkopf) know something about this. They are in fact the protagonists of the feature film The creepy House (original title: Das Schaurige Haus, the debut feature by young Daniel Prochaska, son of the better known Andreas Prochaska (The Dark Valley, Dead in 3 Days).

Intending – at least in his debut – to follow in his father’s footsteps by devoting himself to the horror genre, Daniel Prochaska enjoyed drawing heavily from cult films of the past, in order to make a light-hearted coming-of-age with disturbing implications, mainly for a very young audience.

A car, filmed rigorously from above, speeds along a mountain road. Hendrik and Eddi are travelling in it with their mother Sabine (Julia Koschitz): they are about to move from Hannover to Bad Eisenkappel – a remote village in Austria on the border with Slovenia – because of her job. Once they arrive at their destination, they discover that their house, disturbing in its aspect and almost completely isolated from any urban centre, is not quite as it was initially presented to them. Moreover, the boys soon begin to sense dark presences, probably ghosts of those who had lived there before them. What does this remind us of? Impossible not to think of Stanley Kubrick’s cult film The Shining (1980), from which Prochaska, at least as far as the incipit of his The Creepy House is concerned, was clearly inspired.

But that is not all. If, in fact, once the two brothers have made their first friends in the village and attempt in every way possible to discover what terrible secret lies in their home, we find ourselves experiencing, at least in part, The Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985). And among further references to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and quotes from Andreas Prochaska himself and his A Day for a Miracle (2011), The creepy House gradually finds its way, without particular insights, but doing its job cleanly, with the exception of a few excessively contrived special effects, especially with regard to the various apparitions of ghosts.

Daniel Prochaska is not aiming to create something new. What interests him most is to bring together some cult films from the past in a single film, while at the same time producing a linear and pleasant work, with lots of ironic elements based on clichés – see, above all, a constant use of Austrian dialect, which is difficult to understand by the young protagonists, who come from Germany – and important references to local folk traditions. And the party scene in traditional dress, for its part, reminds us of yet another horror film made in Austria, namely the bizarre and enjoyable Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies, by equally young Dominik Hartl (2016).

At the same time, values such as friendship, love for family and self-discovery are the common thread running through The Creepy House, further confirming the strong tendency of contemporary Austrian cinema to deal with stories mainly concerning the young and very young. And even if Daniel Prochaska, with this debut feature, has certainly not made something that aims to go down in film history, overall, the feature film works and is quite enjoyable. And it turns out, during the screening, to be particularly deep as well. Even if it occasionally suffers from excessive rhetoric.

Original title: Das schaurige Haus
Directed by: Daniel Prochaska
Country/year: Austria / 2020
Running time: 100’
Genre: horror, coming-of-age
Cast: Julia Koschitz, Michael Pink, Inge Maux, Leon Orlandianyi, Marii Weichsler, Christina Cervenka, Lars Bitterlich, Benno Rosskopf, Lisa Stern
Screenplay: Marcel Kawentel, Timo Lombeck
Cinematography: Matthias Pötsch
Produced by: Mona Film Produktion, Naked Eye Filmproduktion, ORF

Info: the page of The creepy House on iMDb; the page of The creepy House on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut