While trying to track down my Hazel poison mushroom memory, I stumbled upon the German movie Das schaurige Haus ("the scary house," but for some reason appearing on Netflix as The Strange House). It's set in Austria, on the Slovenian border, so I thought it might have some Slovenian spoken, and the protagonist Henrik (19 year old Leon Orlandianyi) is kind of cute, so I gave it a go.
Scene 1: Mom, surly teenage Henrik, and adorable preteen Eddi drive through the beautiful Austrian mountains to their new home, Bad Eisenkappel/Zelezna Kapla ("Iron Chapel" in German and Slovenian; this must be on the Austrian border). They pull up to a horrible. overgrown barn-style house. The leering real estate agent shows them around: it's horrible on the inside, too. There's evidence that the previous tenants, another single mom, teenage son, and adorable preteen, left in a hurry. And a locked door marked with a trail of salt "to keep the ghosts away."
As they unload their stuff, a neighbor lady peers down from her window, prays, and crosses herself. Bad things happen in that house. But the title sort of gave that away.
Somebody or something calls to Eddi from behind the locked door.
Scene 2: Dinner in the scary house. Surly teenage arguments. Henrik storms away. He sees that the locked door is open -- it leads to a staircase. But he doesn't go up -- smart kid!
Later, Eddi comes into Henrik's room while he is in bed and scrawls a mysterious symbol on the wall.
Scene 4: Henrik skateboards through town to the grocery store to get bread rolls. The locals stare open-mouthed, and he has trouble communicating, because everyone speaks Austrian German or Slovenian.
After breakfast, the family goes over to meet the spying neighbor lady. Growl, stare. "You won't last long." Slam.
Scene 5: The boys go exploring, and find an overgrown grave yard. One of the tombs has photos that look like the previous tenants: teenage Ralf and ten-year old Roland. Is it an odd coincidence that Hendrik and Eddi are exactly their age?
Eventually the boys reach a lake where lots of people are hanging out, picnicking, playing with Frisbees, swimming. Henrik spies a girl that he'd like to have sex with, and tells Eddi to go find some kids his own age to play with. But before he has a chance to approach her, a boy named Fritz approaches him! This must be a prime cruising site.
Suddenly a group of bullies approach to torture intellectual/outsider Fritz. They quickly turn their attention to the "anti-German slur" Henrik, but Henrik grabs Eddi and runs away, with Fritz tagging along. He tells them about the previous tenants (actually way back in 1980): Amelia Polzmann murdered her two sons by feeding them poison mushrooms, then killed herself.
Scene 6: Mom is tired, so the boys cook dinner. Eddi hears someone calling for Roland, one of the dead boys, and sees a mysterious figure watching them from outside. A ghost, or anti-German stalking?
Later, Henrik looks up a news story about the murders, and shows Mom. Dismiss, dismiss. "What about Eddi seeing things and sleepwalking?" Nope, dismiss.
Later, the boys are brushing their teeth when -- ok, enough shots of Henrik in his underwear! Granted, he's 16, legal age in Germany, and the actor is 19, still, this is supposed to be wholesome family entertainment. I didn't come her for penises. -- when they overhear Mom arguing with the Leering Realtor.
Meanwhile, Mom sees a new wall-scribble, and a photo of the dead family. Is that the Leering Realtor with them? Looking exactly the same? Gulp!
Scene 7: Late at night. Henrik climbs out of bed, in his underwear, of course, and takes away all of Eddi's art supplies so he can't scrawl weird symbols on the wall.
It doesn't work. Later, Henrick and his penis are awakened from a nightmare to see Eddi scrawling on the wall again. The word GOBE.
Scene 8: Henrik and Fritz on a date, lying on a blanket at the park. Henrik tells Fritz about GOBE. It's Slovenian, but he doesn't know what it means. He grabs Ida, a passing girl, to translate (uh-oh, love interest): Mushrooms.
Fritz deduces from this that Amelia Polzmann didn't murder her sons. One of the dead kids is speaking through Eddi, trying to exonerate her.
Chris and his band of bullies arrive and punch Henrik in the nose. Fritz faints at the sight of blood, but Ida administers first aid (uh-oh, Fritz has just been replaced by Ida).
Scene 9: Eddie rushes out to the old cemetery, explaining "The woman called me." He draws pictures of dead people on his sketch pad.
Cut to night. Henrik and his penis text Ida to discuss the ghost stuff. Then he climbs into bed with Eddi to keep him safe from the ghosts.
Scene 10. Morning. A knock on the door. Henrik and his penis rush to answer: it's Ida, gazing like she's about 10 seconds away from tearing the rest of his clothes off. He brings her up to his room to wait while he finishes getting dressed. She sees a girl among his photos, and roils with jealousy. "Is this your girlfriend?????!!!!" "No, just someone from my group of friends." "What a relief!"
Another knock on the door. It's Fritz, Henrik's boyfriend! Well, this is awkward.
They get down to the business of finding the real murderer. The ghosts might know who killed them, so let's conduct a seance! Aww-- a seance means holding hands.
Scene 11: The seance. Eddi is possessed by the ghost of Roland Polzmann, who leads them up to the attic, to a locked room full of scary artifacts. It belong to Ralf, the teenager brother, who was heavy into the occult. A devil's head bookcase has a hidden compartment, and inside a book with another secret compartment! Then Ralf shows up as an evil ghost, so they have to scram!
Scene 12: The secret compartment contains a Super 8 film from the 1980s and a small diary. While Fritz rushes home to get projection equipment, Henrik and Ida sit touchy-feely on the bed to read...um, I mean kiss...um, I mean they are interrupted by Leering Realtor.
Fritz returns, and squeezes between Henrik and Ida on the couch to watch the film (too late, kid -- you should never have left them alone).
Nothing incriminating: home movies of Roland and Ralf, augmented by the diary: Ralf is unhappy in their new home. Roland has made new friends, but he's all alone. Mom picks mushrooms; Dad is surprisingly close to the housekeeper. If it's all innocent, why bother to hide it so thoroughly?
I'm not going to go through the rest scene-by-scene.
Beefcake: Henrik and his penis are on display for about 3/4ths of the movie. Some teenage bare chests. The only significant adult male is the Leering Realtor.
Other Sights: Some nice village establishing shots, the cave that Mom explores.
Gay Characters: Henrik and Fritz, for the first 45 minutes.
Heterosexism: A completely unnecessary romance between Henrik and Ida, obviously tacked on when the director realized that his original rejection of her could be "misinterpreted" as signifying that he is gay. Then an even moreunnecessary two-scene romance between Fritz and a girl at the village party, obviously tacked on at the last minute to alleviate suspicions that Fritz is gay.
The movie was based on a 2012 novel by Martina Wildner, which has no hetero-romantic plotline.
Plot twists: The murderer's identity is a surprise.
Plot holes: Why did the dead boys wait 40 years to manifest and request that the living solve their murder? Did they need two tenants their exact ages?
My grade: B until they decided to heterosexualize Hendrik and Fritz.