Do you enjoy the strange and usual? The wacky and weird? The unnerving and disturbing? Than I have the film for you: 1977’s Japanese horror comedy House (also know as Hausu), which plays out like Monster House on acid, a film that is strange, weird, beautiful and more disturbing than it has any right to be. House turned 40 this year, so join me as I take a look back at this interesting film.
House was directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi from a script by Chiho Katsura based on a story by Chigumi Ôbayashi (Nobuhiko’s daughter, who was 10 at the time). The film stars Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Ai Matubara, Kumiko Oba, Mieko Sato, Eriko Tanaka as Melody, Masayo Miyako, Y?ko Minamida, Kiyohiko Ozaki, Saho Sasazawa, and Haruko Wanibuchi.
How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.
House is an absolutely fucking bonkers film. You have a severed head biting a girl’s ass, a demonic cat/cat painting, a girl being eaten alive by a piano, a girl being killed by mattresses (later, her body is found in a clock), a naked young woman is disintegrated in a room flooded with blood, a woman being burned alive, possessions, a woman Kung-Fu fighting the objects that try to kill her, and a demonic painting being defeated by a pair of severed legs, all achieved through simple effects as the director wanted them to appear like something conceived by a child.
While this sounds like all fun and games on paper, I was honestly surprised by how disturbing some of it managed to be. The upbeat score and slapstick comedy lulls you into a false sense of security before the shit hits the fan. Then the Giallo-influenced lighting hits and people start to die in insane ways. One of the scenes the stood out to me the most was the piano scene. You have a young woman playing a beautiful melody on a piano (which strangely sounds like “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance) when her fingers are severed by the fall board. In shock, she raises her hands and calmly states, “My fingers are gone,” before the fall board once more slams down and takes her entire hand before pulling her in and eating her whole body, after which her torso comes back out and comments on how messed up that was.
- Wasn’t released in the United States till 2009. The responce since its U.S. release has been extremely positive, and the film has gone on to become a cult classic.
- None of the 7 main characters were actresses. They mostly worked as models prior to their film debut in House.
- All 7 main character names are inspired by their personalities: Gorgeous, Fantasy, Kung-Fu, Melody, Sweet, Prof (short for Professor), and Mac (short for Stomach).
- The various attacks and murders carried out by the house came from the imagination of the director’s daughter, who was 10 years old with the film was conceived. She received a story credit on the film.
- Nobuhiko Obayashi was given special permission from Toho to direct the film after all their contracted directors refused for fear of the film hurting their careers.
- The effects were intentionally made to look unrealistic, like they were conceived and executed by a child.
House is a unique and usual film that frequently shifts tones. From slapstick comedy to strangely disturbing kills, House features a little something for all tastes, as long as they are adventurous enough to try this crazy cocktail. If you think you can handle the over the top weirdness of House, be sure to check it out. It’s available for rent on Amazon Video.