This British animated anthology film set in the same house in three different time periods pulled me in and didn’t let go till 90 minutes later, when the house literally floats away. Most of the time, if it’s not Jan Švankmajer or the Brothers Quay, animation will lose me after four or five minutes, but The House sustains its momentum by varying the styles of storytelling and rarely stooping to either crassness or cutesiness—the most common pitfalls for this art form. Screenwritten by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, each 30-minute act takes on a different theme tied to dwelling and home. The first is a creepy fairy tale in which a poor family is given a dream house that quickly turns into a nightmare. The second features an enterprising and very human rat (voiced by Jarvis Cocker of the band Pulp), whose efforts to renovate the same house are subverted by vermin of various species. The final section is a dystopian tale of another idealistic homeowner—a cat this time—hellbent on saving her property as the entire world is literally under water.
The framing device of setting different stories in the same location is a well-worn trope, but it works beautifully here, lending a starting point for three very different visions. Each story is directed by different people with obviously separate ideas and inspirations; this heterogeneity moves the film along without ever letting it overstay its welcome. Yet the unifying elements of setting and the charmingly old-fashioned stop-motion animation keep it from flying off in a million directions. There are moments that recall Richard McGuire’s great graphic novel Here, while others echo Kafka and Gorey. But cumulatively, this is its very own domicile—a place you’ll want to love but that will also scare you from time to time. Whether you’ll want to stay or leave will say as much about you as the house itself. TV-MA, 97 min.