German haunted house horror Hausen comes to Sky Atlantic 26 March

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It was a short while ago when 5D was lucky enough to be contacted to see if we would be interested in reviewing the first couple of episodes of a much anticipated horror/thriller from Germany – ‘Hausen’. Well of course we were interested. The only problem was that due to the press embargo, everything, including my much, ahem, anticipated musings of the production would have to wait until very near the launch of the first episode on TV. 

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Now, those of you who have been with me for a while (bless you, you bored maniacs) will be fully aware of just how difficult it is at the best of times for me to keep hold of my own sh*t, let alone keep quiet about a hotly anticipated drama. Believe me, it was difficult. In fact it was only down to the publicity company involved, advising me that any premature sharing of information would potentially result in ‘the boys coming round for a brief visit’, that made me keep quiet. …….Of course , I’m joking about the publicity company advice – they have been lovely and helpful and I’m typing this under my own volition. 

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The eight episode series, coming to Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK on the 26th March stars Charly Hübner, Tristan Göbel, Alexander Scheer, Lilith Stangenberg, Daniel Sträßer and is directed by Thomas Stuber.

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Thomas Stuber

So not only were we able to watch the first few episodes of the series but I was extremely fortunate to be able to talk by Zoom with the series director, Thomas Stuber. However before I talk about the series or what Thomas had to say, let me throw a little summary of Hausen your way.

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Synopsis

After the death of his mother, 16-year-old Juri (Tristan Göbel) and his father Jaschek (Charly Hübner) move into a rundown housing complex on the city outskirts. While Jaschek tries to establish a new life for himself and his son, as caretaker of the building, Juri gradually discovers that the house has a vicious life of its own and feeds on the suffering of its inhabitants. In order to fight it, Juri has to persuade the partly hostile, partly apathetic block population to cooperate – and to rebel against his father, who has already fallen deep under the building’s corrosive spell.

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I will say this now before going any further – but the first two episodes are sublime. Rarely has a TV series enveloped my consciousness in a cloud of claustrophobic and desolate tension….. but more of that later.

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The first point of note about Hausen is the setting, because any Haunted House story worth its salt traditionally has to be the star of any production. Whether it be The Amityville Horror (obviously), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Changeling or endless others, the house is invariably the central character of note. From the early minutes of the first episode when father and son drive up to the dilapidated concrete behemoth of a high-rise housing complex, the story has you immediately trapped – this a scene which by the way is impeccably shot. Indeed, this is one of the very first things I asked Thomas was how they obtained the look and feel of the building;

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The outside shots there was some CGI. 2/3 of the interior shooting took place in one location, which is an old hospital in East Germany. Some shots were of a studio origin. The main part though was in one run down (if I may say so) hospital. It was very hard to find the exact location, we wanted to create a maze – so that’s how we came up with this location so it resembled a complex forboding maze.

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This immediately is one of the main strengths of the opening scenes as we witness first hand the intense, forboding and dilapidated claustrophobic atmosphere inside the building. The imagery is both desolate and distressing form the moment we venture inside.

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Perhaps one of the main strengths of Hausen is that it isn’t a run of the mille horror production, indeed Stuber’s background has little involvement in working in that genre.

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It’s not just horror…..more than half of it is drama, it’s a mystery and you add a little bit of horror. That crossover is one that intrigued me so much.

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It’s not just the stunning bleak and atmospheric visuals that immediately get under your skin but also the sound of it, because there are some incredible moments of genuinely unsettling auditory effects. This is something that the filmmakers were conscious of wanting an impact to be felt;

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Yeah, as a filmmaker I’m always very attracted to the soundtrack part. In a thriller or horror production sound makes one third, without sound the genre experience is not there. So that was very, very important for me with my sound and editor collaborates who spent weeks and months on that to not fall into cliché. But you have to give the audience what they expect of course, yes you have the creaking walls etc, but because this is not just a classical horror film, because you don’t see what is behind the walls you have to tell this story with strange sounds.

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The central performances, especially the two leads playing father and son (Charly Hübner and Tristan Göbel) are fabulous as we witness the level of their broken yet emotional relationship as they attempt to rebuild their lives at the beginning.

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Charly is a well respected actor here in Germany. He kind of fits into the proportions of many main characters. He doesn’t talk much, he has a big heart. We worked a lot on the approach, and I wanted it to be the house of the ghosts from the very beginning ghosts, but you  can see the from the start the whole story could be when you see the first scene in the car, it could be a nightmare of these two….of the relationship. That’s what I told the actors.

Juri (Tristan Göbel) is special because we see through his eyes….. a great actor, young actor he did an incredible job and eats up almost every scene of this and he’s never done anything this big, you know? Particularly Charly, who gets into the neck of this house, of this creature, Juri has to get his father out. I said to Charly….. don’t say a lot! (laughs).

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Having seen the first few episodes of Hausen I can confidently predict that it will find an audience who will be transfixed by the vision Thomas and his team had in mind from the outset. It is unsettling, atmospheric, bleak and has a uniqueness that adds a welcome layer to the thriller horror genre’s. 

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I for one cannot wait to see, along with the rest of you, this marvellous series.
Hausen airs on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV from 26 March

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