Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type



Film Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Melinda Barlow


Often times in film, houses have been categorized as a part of the set design or production design. They are purposefully furnished and decorated according to the director’s vision. Filmmakers, scholars, and critics recognize the importance of the setting and its decorations. However, let us consider the possibility that a house is more than the set design; it is a character. The characterization of a house can be both literal and implied. There are the houses that come alive like, as in Monster House (Gil Kenan, 2006) and houses whose character is subtler in its presence, as in The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932) or The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963.) The house as a character is neither static nor flat, but dynamic and complex. In order for us to understand the complexities of the house, this thesis will explore the major foundation stones of any character in film: costuming, physicality, the mind of a character, and its personalities. Like a human being, each house has a unique characteristic and personality. To name a few of the many, a house can be a murderer, a seductress, a femme fatale, or an isolated being. Its personality is structured around the foundations. The exterior is representative of the character’s physicality. The inner decorations of a house provide the costuming. A character’s mind is explored through the house’s rooms, spaces, and trap doors. Each room uncovers a new secret and reveals the depth of the house’s personality. A house’s personality is further enhanced through its gestures and movements. These foundations cover the skeleton of the house by being the heart and muscle of the character. I want to explore the character of a house by studying a variety of classic and modern films such as The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939), Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941), Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978), Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991), and The Addams Family (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1991.) Thus this thesis will expand our understanding of the complexity and importance of the house in film. By examining the anthropomorphic qualities of a house, we will discover the house as an animate being. Let us define the concept of anthropomorphism as attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects such as a house. The goal of this thesis is to explore the means through which films routinely anthropomorphize houses, to what ends, with what implications, and why.