Paperhouse (film)

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Directed by Bernard Rose
Produced by Tim Bevan
Sarah Radclyffe
Jane Frazer
Dan Ireland
M.J. Peckos
Written by Matthew Jacobs
Starring Charlotte Burke
Glenne Headly
Elliott Spiers
Ben Cross
Music by Stanley Myers
Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Mike Southon
Edited by Dan Rae
Distributed by Vestron
Release dates
  • 10 September 1988 (1988-09-10)[1]
Running time
92 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Paperhouse is a 1988 British dark fantasy film directed by Bernard Rose. It was based on the novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr. The film stars Ben Cross, Glenne Headly and Gemma Jones.


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 a disabled boy named Marc 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.


Paperhouse is notable for being the only film to date in which Charlotte Burke has had a major leading role. Elliott Spiers, who played Marc, made only one more film, Taxandria (1989).


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."

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."

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 70%.


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