GORE IN THE STORE
Starring Charly Hubner, Tristan Gobel, Alexander Scheer.
Available on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.
After the conclusion of last year’s mind-bending and time hopping DARK on Netflix, Germany provides us with yet another singular exercise in serialised genre storytelling with HAUSEN. Set within a towering housing complex we follow Jaschek and his teenage son Juri as the former begins his job as a building superintendent. From the off it is obvious that a new start is being made for the pair with this job. However, it becomes immediately apparent that this particular tower block with its downtrodden residents perpetually enclosed by a thick freezing fog, has something else lurking in the vents and behind the walls. After encountering the mysterious Kater, a terrifying sunken eyed vagrant who lurks around the corridors, Juri realises that the building has a life of its own that affects everyone who walks through its doors.
Atmospheric from its opening scene HAUSEN immediately proves itself as visually distinctive with a dark atmosphere that stands out from anything else on screen at this moment. The fog enshrouded towers quickly suggest that we are in for a modern gothic. The dark atmosphere, as well as photography, quickly confirms this as the cast of junkies, alcoholics, dealers and seemingly ideal yet fascistic neighbours are seen to being toyed with by a supernatural intelligence that watches over everyone from the vents and ducts that snake around them all.
The establishing exterior shots are reminiscent of BLADE RUNNER 2049 whilst the interiors are soon to be revealed as something else entirely more hellish and outlandish as the series progresses. Far more than a simple case of a haunted building there are several horror elements at play here that display the shows ambitions to impressive effect. Hints of body horror appear at times whilst a pervasive sense of cosmic horror becomes more apparent as we get to explore more of the building and its dark secrets.
Impressive as it is some viewers may be turned off by its oppressively grim and dark atmosphere which never lets up. Accompanying this is a wealth of disturbing imagery; one particular instance of something slamming against the inside of an oven door will probably go down as one of the more disturbing visuals you are likely to see on television for some time. The themes of urban alienation as well as the ghosts of the nations past resurfacing make HAUSEN a heavy feast of doom and gloom that some may find hard to stomach. The emotional streak of the bond between Jaschek and Juri however provides an sensitive backbone that strengthens the viewers investment over its eight hours.
Its pace never really flags, managing for the most part to sustain its various mysteries and subplots containing a large number of characters. It nearly trips itself up in trying to maintain its pace, particularly with the seemingly catastrophic injury that one character experiences, only for it to be nearly completely dealt with and forgotten about by the following episode.
This small quibble aside HAUSEN shows itself as one of the most original and distinctive pieces of horror television since Lars Von Trier’s THE KINGDOM. As ambitious as it is disturbing this social drama by way of Lovecraft may prove a hard act to follow with a second season if there will be one. If not then its ending, which is reminiscent of a certain Stanley Kubrick sequence, could go down as one of the strangest and visually stunning conclusions in quite some time. If there is a second season then the wait to see where they go from here is an exciting one.