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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.


Bernard Rose


Catherine Storr (novel), Matthew Jacobs (screenplay)
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Charlotte Burke Charlotte Burke ... Anna Madden
Jane Bertish Jane Bertish ... Miss Vanstone
Samantha Cahill Samantha Cahill ... Sharon
Glenne Headly ... Kate Madden
Sarah Newbold Sarah Newbold ... Karen (Anna's school friend)
Gary Bleasdale Gary Bleasdale ... Policeman
Elliott Spiers ... Marc
Gemma Jones ... Dr. Sarah Nicols
Steven O'Donnell ... Dustman
Ben Cross ... Dad Madden
Karen Gledhill Karen Gledhill ... Nurse
Barbara Keogh 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


A drawing that became a dream. A dream that became reality. See more »


Drama | Fantasy


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Despite playing the lead character in this film, Charlotte Burke never appeared in any film ever again. 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 »


Marc: Go away.
Anna Madden: No. You let me in, and then I'll go away.
Marc: Can't do that.
Anna Madden: Why not?
Marc: Because there aren't any stairs.
Anna Madden: How did you get up there, then?
Marc: I dunno... I'm just here.
Anna Madden: Can't you tell someone else to let me in?
Marc: There isn't anyone else.
Anna Madden: Look, just stop mucking around and let me in!
See more »


Version of Escape Into Night (1972) See more »


A40 Overhead Section
Written by Bernard Rose
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User Reviews

Pretty darn cool
21 July 2004 | by suomi_metalSee all my reviews

My friend and I picked "Paperhouse" out of a random pile of movies on our weekly excursion to the Horror section-- neither of us had heard of it, but the blurb on the box was really promising. And the movie didn't disappoint, though I still probably wouldn't call it a horror movie exclusively.

11-year old Anna Madden draws a house, and visits it in her dreams. She is definitely asleep when she's seeing the house, but it's so real in a sense that it's almost like a completely separate reality. Which, in view of later events, doesn't seem like a far cry from the truth. Anyhow, she finds she can add to the house, its contents and its surroundings by simply adding to the picture.

While this is going on, Anna is getting increasingly more ill with a fever, and besides that is getting totally obsessed with the house and her drawing. On top of that, she and her mother are also dealing with her absent father; he has a job that takes him away for long stretches, though one gets the impression there's actually more to the story than that.

OK, so the drawing stuff sounds nice enough-- but frankly there's something really menacing about it. The dreamworld is eerily surreal -- the house, for instance, is just a grey block in the middle of a desolate field. The folks who made the movie did a great job of making us very uncomfortable with this alternate world/ongoing dream...

One of the things Anna adds to the house is a boy, Mark, who seems to be the same patient her doctor keeps talking about (I'm not giving that away, you know from the moment he appears that it's the same kid). In reality, Mark can't walk due to an illness; in Anna's drawing-world, he can't walk because she didn't draw him any legs. She blames herself for his real-life illness, and tries to rectify the situation, but... everything starts getting really weird. She even brings her absent father into the drawing, with disastrous results. The bits with the father are really terrifying.

I don't want to give anything away, so I'll stop there... There seems to be a lot going on in this film. I'm sure you'll have a ball analyzing this thing do death with your pals after you watch it-- Is it a simple a story as it seems, or are there actually layers of meaning? I don't know, but either way it's quite fascinating. There was a "Nightmare On Elm Street"-ish quality about it, in that at a certain point reality and dreams intersect. I love things like that.

My only complaint is that it feels like it COULD have ended many times, but didn't. I'm satisfied with the ending it had (some of you sensitive types might want to have Kleenex handy!), though it really could have a variety of conclusions. Anyway, it doesn't exactly feel drawn out once it's actually over, but while you're watching and it keeps fading back in, it's a little nerve wracking.

Still, "Paperhouse" is a really GOOD film. It's well done, and acting-- especially Charlotte Burke as Anna-- is top notch. Burke, who has never before or since appeared in a film, is a real gem. I don't know why she never went onto do anything else, but either way she's really convincing and enjoyable to watch.

"Paperhouse" isn't exactly a horror movie, it's sort of a fantasy/suspense/something else type of movie, with some definite horroresque moments-- but you can still watch it with your family and not be worried that your little brother or grandmother will get grossed out by blood splashing or something.

Give it a chance, you won't regret it! And maybe you should read the book, too...

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Release Date:

17 February 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Paperhouse See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,687, 20 February 1989

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Working Title Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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