Paperhouse (film)

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Directed byBernard Rose
Produced byTim Bevan
Sarah Radclyffe
Jane Frazer
Dan Ireland
M.J. Peckos
Written byMatthew Jacobs
Based onMarianne Dreams
by Catherine Storr
Music byStanley Myers
Hans Zimmer
CinematographyMike Southon
Edited byDan Rae
Distributed byVestron Video
Release date
  • 10 September 1988 (1988-09-10)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Paperhouse is a 1988 British dark fantasy film directed by Bernard Rose. It was based on the 1958 novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr. The film stars Ben Cross, Glenne Headly and Gemma Jones. The original novel was the basis of a six-episode British TV series for children in the early 1970s which was titled Escape Into Night.


While suffering from glandular fever, 11-year-old Anna Madden draws a house. When she falls asleep, she has disturbing dreams in which she finds herself inside the house she has drawn. After she draws a face at the window, in her next dream she finds Marc, a boy who suffers with muscular dystrophy, living in the house. She learns from her doctor that Marc is a real person.

Anna sketches her father into the drawing so that he can help carry Marc away, but she inadvertently gives him an angry expression which she then crosses out, and the father (who has been away a lot and has a drinking problem, putting a strain on his marriage) appears in the dream as a furious, blinded ogre. Anna and Marc defeat the monster and shortly afterward Anna recovers, although the doctor reveals that Marc's condition is deteriorating.

Anna's father returns home and both parents seem determined to get over their marital difficulties. The family goes on holiday by the sea, where Anna finds an epilogue to her dream.



Film critic Roger Ebert gave Paperhouse four stars out of four and called it "a film in which every image has been distilled to the point of almost frightening simplicity" and ended by saying "this is not a movie to be measured and weighed and plumbed, but to be surrendered to."[1]

On the television show Siskel & Ebert, Paperhouse received a "Thumbs Up" from Roger Ebert who commented "I suppose Paperhouse will be classified as a fantasy thriller, but I thought it was a lot more than that. A dream movie that uses images so real and so concrete, they seem more convincing than most real-life dramas." He also commented how effective the soundtrack was. He said that Paperhouse showed that director Bernard Rose was extremely talented. Gene Siskel gave the film a marginal "Thumbs Down", but he agreed that Bernard Rose was very talented and said, "for about two-thirds of the way I was fascinated by this film." He also commented on how well the dream scenes were handled and said, "these seem to be legitimate fears that child might have." He stated that "when the film got more explicit... I thought the film went over-the-top with imagery and I got a little tired of it. Until then, I was fascinated by it."[2]

The critics who have submitted their reviews to Rotten Tomatoes have given Paperhouse a "fresh" rating of 100%, but the users give it a "fresh" rating of 72%.[3]

Home media[edit]

Paperhouse was initially released on VHS format not long following its theatrical exhibition in the United Kingdom. In the United States, Vestron Video handled releasing it on both VHS and Laserdisc, both in the 1:33.1 aspect ratio. The film was made available on DVD on 24 September 2001 via Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1.[4] Lionsgate Home Entertainment released a re-issue of the film to DVD on 24 September 2007.[5]

In France, the film received its first Blu-ray release from Metropolitan distribution on 2 May 2013 in a Special Edition containing the original English audio and a dubbed French audio, both in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and optional French subtitles. It features an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.[6] This set is now out-of-print.

The movie hasn't been given a DVD release in the United States, nor has it been released on Blu-ray in any country outside of France.


  1. ^ "Paperhouse". 31 March 1989. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Siskel & Ebert - "Paperhouse" (1989)". YouTube. 5 February 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Paperhouse (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Paperhouse [DVD] (1988)". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Paperhouse [DVD]". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Paperhouse Blu-ray". Retrieved 4 April 2016.

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