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Paperhouse (1988)

PG-13 | | Drama, Fantasy | 17 February 1989 (USA)
A young girl lost in the loneliness and boredom of reality finds solace in an ill boy, whom she can visit in a surreal dream world that she drew in her school composition book.



(novel), (screenplay)

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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Charlotte Burke ...
Jane Bertish ...
Miss Vanstone
Samantha Cahill ...
Kate Madden
Sarah Newbold ...
Karen (Anna's school friend)
Gary Bleasdale ...
Elliott Spiers ...
Dr. Sarah Nicols
Dad Madden
Karen Gledhill ...
Barbara Keogh ...
Hotel receptionist


Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house she has drawn herself and occupied by a young disabled boy. But as she discovers more of the links between her fantasy world and the mundane present, she is drawn only deeper into a dream turning into a nightmare. Written by David Carroll <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

boy | dream | dream world | girl | school | See All (114) »


Is anybody there? See more »


Drama | Fantasy


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 February 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Paperhouse - Alpträume werden wahr  »

Box Office


$241,278 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Stanley Myers receives a composer credit though his score was rejected by the producers for not having enough edge. Hans Zimmer was working as Myers' assistant at the time and insisted that he could properly score the movie in time for its release. Within a couple of years Zimmer would become one of the most sought-after composers in Hollywood and his popularity continues to this day. See more »


When Anna is lying in bed, the boom mic visible in top center of screen. See more »


Dad Madden: Anna... you're going to be all right. Just stay where you are. Daddy's here.
See more »


Referenced in Animaniacs: Video Review/When Mice Ruled the Earth (1993) See more »


A40 Overhead Section
Written by Bernard Rose
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User Reviews

A brilliant art/thriller/fantasy film
11 February 2003 | by See all my reviews

Anna (Charlotte Burke) develops a strange fever that causes her to pass out and drift off into a world of her own creation. A bleak world she drew with a sad little boy as the inhabitant of an old dumpy house in the middle of a lonely field. Lacking in detail, much like any child drawing the house and it's inhabitant Marc (who can't walk because Anna didn't draw him any legs) are inhabitants of this purgatory/limbo world. Anna begins visiting the boy and the house more frequently trying to figure what's what and in the process tries to help save the boy, but her fever is making it harder for her to wake up each time and may not only kill her, but trap her and Marc there forever.

Wow! Is a good word to sum up Bernard Rose's brilliantly haunting and poetic Paperhouse. A film that is so simple that it's damn near impossible to explain and impossible to forget. While you may find this puppy in your horror section it's anything but. It's more of a serious fantasy, expertly directed, and exceptionally well acted by it's cast, in particular Charlotte Burke and Elliot Speirs (Marc). And yet, it's not a children's movie either, but meant to make us remember those carefree days of old that are now just dark memories. Rose creates a rich tapestry of moody ambiance that creates a thrilling backdrop for the brilliant story and great actors to play with. Paperhouse stays away from trying to explain it's more dreamy qualities and leaves most things to the viewers imagination. There's much symbolism and ambiguity here to sink your teeth into. Paperhouse enjoys playing games with the viewers mind, engrossing you with it's very own sense of reasoning. As the story unfolded I was again and again impressed at just how powerful the film managed to be up to the finale which left me with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.

Bernard Rose's visuals are brilliant here. He's able to create an unnervingly bleak atmosphere that appears simple on the surface, but as a whole is much greater than the sum of it's parts. The acting is of young Charlotte Burke in this, her feature debut, is a truly impressing as well. Unfortunately she's not graced the screen since. A much deserved Burnout Central award only seems proper for that performance. Toward the end the movie lags a bit here and there, but I was easily able to overlook it. I wished they had took a darker turn creating a far more powerful finale that would have proved to be all the more unnerving and truly riveting in retrospect. The movie as is, is still one for the books and deserves to be seen by any serious film lover. It's a poetic ride told through the innocent eyes of a child, a powerful film in which much is left to be pondered and far more to be praised.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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