For all its modernist maneuvers, postmodernist airs and post-postmodernist critical parodies, House of Leaves is, when you get down to it, an adventure story: a man starts traveling inside a house that keeps getting larger from within, even as its outside dimensions remain the same … Throughout, the typeface tells us where we are, even if it's not always clear which narrator or compiler we're being lectured by, or what his state of mind might be … We are reading a story about a story about a story about a film about a house with a black hole in it. The hole is the core of the experience … The message they bring home is a chilling one: Fear lives in the earth, and we meet it as it rises, night after night, in place after place.
House of Leaves [is] the first major experimental novel of the new millennium. And it's a monster...like David Foster Wallace channeling H.P. Lovecraft for a literary counterpart to The Blair Witch Project … Navidson's documentary concerns a strange house in rural Virginia into which he moves with his family. All is well at first, but small spatial displacements soon occur … The accounts of the exploration of this dark abyss are hair-raising, and the physical impossibility of it all only deepens the metaphysical dread felt by the characters … Danielewski's achievement lies in taking some staples of horror fiction – the haunted house, the mysterious manuscript that casts a spell on its hapless reader – and using his impressive erudition to recover the mythological and psychological origins of horror, and then enlisting the full array of avant-garde literary techniques to reinvigorate a genre long abandoned to hacks.
There is something very wrong. The Navidson Record becomes a vérité horror film as Will and his friends try to explore the anomalous space, which rearranges itself periodically with a roar, and expands into terrifying volumes of darkness … Danielewski...weaves around his brutally efficient and genuinely chilling story a delightful and often very funny satire of academic criticism. In one way, and after the manner of Moby-Dick, the novel is its own Leviathan commentary … House of Leaves...is a superbly inventive creation. It is not mere genre fiction, because the author so gleefully ignores the conventions of horror: no finally unmasked monster, no ghosts, no malign extraterrestrials. There is only the house.