When it’s the apocalypse, escapism can be your only relief.
In the before times, escapism was just a pleasant way to unplug and pass time. Now that we’re living in a plague-ridden, unsubtly racist, earth-meltin’ idiocracy of a hellmouth, we need something to help balance out our resting state of despair and disbelief.
Maybe that’s why our Pajiba slack recently had so much fun pondering the question of “if you could stay in any movie home for a night, where would you stay?” Our thread was inspired by Steven sharing this AirBnB listing for the OG Home Alone house article, and it quickly devolved from there.
Honestly, I’m kind of torn about this. The “one night only” AirBnB Home Alone listing is doubtless stupid expensive, and even the charity tag doesn’t entirely mask the bad aftertaste. This promo has clearly been engineered to pave the way for yet another reboo- and yep, right in the second line of the article, it says that this offer is tied to an upcoming Disney+ reboot. Blergh.
For all these reasons, my initial reaction to this listing was more along the lines of “ugh, capitalism.” But I started thinking about how cool it would be to live in a movie for a night. No strings attached, bring anyone you want, totally free. I just couldn’t resist that premise. Almost without my permission, my imagination decided to dive headfirst into making a list of blissful escapes from modern reality.
Of course, I couldn’t just leave it with the good ones and make myself a shiny, happy little list. Nope, not me. Apparently, I can’t resist torturing myself for no damn reason (calling E.L. James, calling, E.L. James). So I also started thinking of all the places I would never, ever stay in under any circumstances.
Funny enough, I did notice a common thread in both my “Gimme it” and my “oh no no” list. In both instances, what qualifies a house for a spot on the list isn’t just the space itself. It’s also all of the trappings and the original movie’s production values that make it so interesting. It’s all of the hard work of the location scouts, set designers, propmasters, and the other critical members of film crews that truly makes these homes so memorable.
After all, half the reason I want to stay in the Burrow is because the house cooks and cleans for itself. And if the Casper house doesn’t include a spiral staircase down to a secret lab and childhood crush Devon Sawa asking if he can keep me, what even is the point?
This also extends to backyards, since I fully expect Totoro and his dust bunny pals to be chilling in my Miyazaki digs. Although the Catbus can just mosey his creepy ass right on down to the nightmare section down below, please and thank you.
Casper’s House (from 1995 classic, Casper)
Gothic isn’t really my style and I usually wouldn’t ever willingly stay in a haunted house. Yet, I’m still happily adding this place to the top of my list. The house itself is beyond beautiful, and it feels like a place you’d never really be done exploring. There’s one hell of a ballroom, and it’s practically begging you to go rampaging around its elegant corners while telling off your local bullies. They’ve even managed to make the attic and the basement slightly less creepy. Plus, there’s the very lovable Casper, his entertainingly dickish uncles, Christina Ricci being her fabulous self, Bill Pullman in full-on DILF mode - and did I mention the secret lab with an armchair roller coaster? Yeah. Exceptions will be made.
Blank Check and Richie Rich Mansions
While these are technically two different movies with different plots (and Blank Check especially has not aged well), they’re both centered around rich, young, white kids who have incredible homes. I could easily go into a spiel about the socioeconomic privileges inherent to our country and how our ever-growing class disparities are on full display in these movies designed for children. Or I could turn off my brain, and go whizzing down the slide that runs from my castle directly into the pool. Gleefully wave my hands as I scream my way through my backyard roller coaster. Treat myself to a snack from my own private concession stand. And make a mental note to burn down the patriarchy later that week.
Mei & Satsuki’s Home in My Neighbor Totoro
I recently rewatched this, and it’s honestly just as good as when I was little. There’s something so welcoming about the simple eloquence and innate tranquility of this home. Miyazaki films are like living art, and every frame could easily be a painting. I vividly remember being a five-year-old kid watching this with my face pressed right up to the screen so I could soak it all in (sorry, Mom). I especially loved the scene where they begin exploring their amazing new home. When the adorable dust bunnies toddle through their backyard and wander through the woods into the magical hollow where Totoro was napping, I wanted to tag along so badly I could taste it. Apparently, some wonderful human recreated this beautifully rendered vision in real life, so this is now going straight to the top of my post-pandemic travel list.
Addams Family Values House
I know I said Gothic isn’t really my style, but come on. I’m only human. How fun would it be to swig questionable wine with Granny, and elegantly trade gossip with Morticia while watching Wednesday and Pugsley’s unsubtle attempts to murder each other? Let’s be real - everyone who has ever had a sibling secretly envies their occasional indulgence of a homicidal impulse or two. This house is just the perfect embodiment of the amazingly camp and delightfully eccentric family that lives in it, and it also just looks like a blast to cut loose in. Of course, the entire original cast would magically be there - including the only man who will ever do Gomez Addams justice, the late and always great Raul Julia.
Frodo’s Home in the Shire, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
I’m specifically naming Frodo’s home because it was the one we got to see the most. Also because his pantry is legit - it’s one of his only good traits. But I would be happy with any of these adorable, clever, and snuggly homes within the hills. The brightly colored doors of Hobbiton seem to encourage you to come in and have a nice rest before second breakfast. I’ve always had a soft spot for homes that look entirely harmonious with the world around them. Curved, subtle spaces that appear to be built around nature instead of the other way around. Hobbiton just seems like the equivalent of a cozy blanket and mug of mulled apple cider on a cold day. Of listening to the wind rant and rave outside while you’re happily tucked in by the fire. This feeling of refuge seeps into your bones even when you’re only watching it on a screen. Imagine what it would feel like to actually stay here, even for a week. You’d be so rejuvenated, so glowingly relaxed that GOOP would send you a cease-and-desist letter.
Honorable mention goes to Lothlorien from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Jasmine’s suite with bonus tiger in Aladdin, pretty much everyone’s homes in The Holiday, Nick’s ancestral Singaporean wonder in Crazy Rich Asians, and The Burrow from the Harry Potter series.
And then, there’s a whole mess of movies I’d never want to spend the night in. Even if it was the house only and none of the characteristics from the movie itself — hard pass. The full list is way longer than I could possibly get into, but a lot of the basic tenets are the same. Anything with a creepy doll or creepy kid, I’m out. Anywhere a brown person is totally gonna be murdered first, bye. Anyplace that looks like Dolores Umbridge had herself a sadistically pink decorating party, I’m good.
Personally, I’ve got nothing but love for all my horror movie friends, and I can definitely see the appeal of staying in a home that embodies your favorite genre (see: all of the words I wrote above). That’s still a hard no from me.
Maybe it’s not so surprising that right at the top of my oh no-no list is the terrifying death mansion from The Haunting. I’m also good with never checking into the ornately sinister mansion from Crimson Peak.
You can keep the “antebellum splendor” (read: racist mierda) of Interview with the Vampire or Gone with the Wind. The same goes for the tangibly oppressive nonchalance of Rose’s home in Get Out. Even if the man himself isn’t home, I can do without experiencing Patrick Bateman’s serial killer chic apartment in American Psycho. Ditto the creepy, cut-glass perfection of Nathan’s home in Ex Machina or the pristinely white ‘no humans could actually ever live here’ vibe of the Vanger house in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
You’ll find me running firmly in the opposite direction for all these nightmare homes. Unless a certain ghost-turned-human shows up, or Pajiba 10 Hall-of-Famer John Cho does.
If that happens, all bets are off, and I would immediately turn into the slasher flick victim you keep screaming at not to go into the murder house. I make no apologies.