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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 ...
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:

visit | boy | dream | dream world | girl | See All (134) »


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:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Matthew Jacobs was inspired by the film El espíritu de la colmena (1973) when adapting Catherine Storr's novel and changed the name of the lead character from Marianne to Anna after that movie's protagonist Ana Torrent. See more »


At the hospital, the chest radiograph that can be seen on the negatoscope is incorrectly positioned. It should be flipped horizontally, so the heart shadow mainly occupies the right half of the image (as if the examiner was in front of the patient). See more »


Dad Madden: I was beginning to think I was invisible.
Anna Madden: You don't have to be invisible to disappear, Dad.
See more »


Referenced in Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos (2004) See more »


Music by Gabriel Fauré
Performed by Choristers of Westminster Cathedral
Published by Editions Harnelle
Arranged by Stanley Myers (uncredited)
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User Reviews

Absorbing tale, visually stunning and brilliant
15 April 2002 | by (Palm Springs) – See all my reviews

I do miss the company Vestron, they sure had their finger on the pulse of unique and unusual cinema back in the 1980s. This is very apparent with the astonishing Paperhouse, a film that touches me deeply each and every time I watch it.

The idea of a girl manipulating a dream world with her drawings (thusly the dream world manipulating reality), and also connecting with and affecting the life of a boy she's never actually met, is fascinating and never disappoints. Charlotte Burke at first seems quite precocious and yet you warm up to her because by being a bit of a mischievous child, it makes it hard for the adults to believe what she is experiencing. She becomes very self aware and strong towards the end, even finding she doesn't "hate boys" as she so defiantly claimed at first. Through this we are treated to many touching moments and some immensely scary ones, all visually stunning with a grand score from Hans Zimmer. I'm quite proud to be an owner of the soundtrack on CD when it was released in the United States on RCA Victor. At the time of this writing there is no DVD of Paperhouse yet available in the U.S. (only in Europe), here's hoping one of my wishes will come true as I truly cherish this beautiful film and a DVD of it would be very welcome!

It's satisfying watching the girl work out her thoughts like a puzzle game trying to make the dream world work for her and her newfound friend Marc (Elliot Spiers). Both Charlotte Burke and Elliot Spiers do a magnificent job throughout, I find the editorial comment on Amazon.com about it being "hammy acting" quite perplexing -- I found every aspect of Paperhouse to be exhilarating. Even in minor scenes of brilliance like when Charlotte and the girl in the classroom are staring at each other through the glass on a door, it's quite powerful.

You don't have to be an arthouse type to enjoy Paperhouse, just be a person that enjoys a film that stimulates and has you wanting more. There is enough in this film to invite repeated viewings and I'm still in awe of the cinematography and sets. For me, it's never like watching the same film twice, as there are so many details to absorb and savor. A very emotional experience indeed.

While there are many films I adore, there are only a few specific ones that strike a great emotional chord in me: films like Paperhouse, Static, Resurrection, and Donnie Darko. When I see so much drek out there passing as films that will easily be forgotten and in bargain bins, all I have to do is watch Paperhouse and my faith in wondrous storytelling is renewed.

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