House aka Hausu (1977) Review.

Hausu

Plot .

After Gorgeous gets her nose put out of joint by her Father’s new girlfriend she and her school friends (Melody, Sweet, Mac, Kung Fu, Prof, and Fanta) decide to travel to her Aunt’s house in the country for the Summer. After the death of her Mother Gorgeous has not seen her Aunt (on her Mother’s side) for some years and finds the woman to be living as a recluse in a rundown estate as ill-health prevents her from leaving. The Aunt is surrounded by a deep sadness since losing her one great love to the war and as this ill feeling has been left to fester the girls soon discover the Aunt lives in solitude for a good reason.

Themes.

Ghosts, supernatural, psychedelic, experimental, art house, avant-garde, surreal.

Credits.

Directed by
Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Writing credits
Chiho Katsura (screenplay)
Chigumi Ôbayashi (original story)
Cast
Kimiko Ikegami Gorgeous/ Gorgeous’ Mother
Miki Jinbo Kungfu
Kumiko Ohba Fanta
Ai Matsubara Prof
Mieko Satô Mac
Eriko Tanaka Melody
Masayo Miyako Sweet
Kiyohiko Ozaki Keisuke Tôgô
Saho Sasazawa Gorgeous’ Father
  • Classification: 15
  • Run Time: 87 minutes

Review.

House is a visually spectacular psychedelic assault on the senses which will not easily be forgotten. Never before, and I doubt ever again, have I seen anything quite like this. What started off as a studio idea to make something which could achieve the commercial success of Jaws, the director consulted with his daughter for ideas and came up with this epic adventure of no holes barred fantasy horror which plays out like a 60’s acid trip on steroids.

We have the girls, all played by amateur actresses, who start off in the first part of the film as sickeningly sweet  school chums travelling to meet a long-lost Aunt. This section of the film is filled with soft focused shots, scenes with the girls acting cute and complimenting each other on their general awesomeness and plays out as a vomit inducing slab of WTF is this??!!! The entire segment has an anime ‘chibi’ quality which is way, way ahead of its time, and the cinematography is just indescribable in terms of quality and originality. For a movie aiming for ‘commercial’ success this is anything but mainstream. My only grumble would be it seems to take the girls a long time to reach their destination but it is worth the wait for what ensues later on.

When they reach the house and meet the grisly old Miss Haversham-esque Aunt things start to ramp up a gear and we are introduced to all manner of weird and wonderful concepts such as dismembered floating heads biting people, demonic cats, pianos and clocks which prey on unsuspecting victims and women disappearing into fridges. As the House becomes a place of danger for the group it really is a case of anything is possible and this is the beauty of the film as the makers have shown no restraint when it comes to portraying an array of off the wall concepts that have you wondering ‘what were they on when they made this?’.

While the plot follows a basic storyline the development adopts a non linear structure which bounces off here there and everywhere leaving the viewer in a constant state of wonderment. Obayashi uses the narrative to explore a number of themes such as grief, loss, bitterness in a way which is both visually striking and surreal in nature, with elements of offbeat comedy mixed in to directly contrast with the darker elements. The sheer energy and originality of the piece is astounding and with concepts like rationality, reason and structure thrown out of the window House takes on a dreamlike quality which is in a league of its own. This is supported by an equally bizarre and bipolar score which flits between dramatic piano music, soft incidental and retro pop. I found the soundtrack in particular got under my skin, catching myself mindlessly humming the main theme a few days later before realising what it was.

I was not surprised to learn the director was in advertising prior to making this and it perhaps explains his non traditional approach to filmmaking in some part, using his experience to introduce interesting animation techniques, flamboyant editing effects and an overall flow which feels like a series of pop videos rolled into one feature-length edit. The only thing I can think to compare it to, and this is a very loose comparison which relates more the to comedy elements is the 60’s tv show The Monkees if you had taken a heavy dose of LSD prior to watching an episode.

For the horror, and House is after all labelled as a predominately horror film, the film pushes the boundaries of genre confines to produce something of a completely different animal which stands on its own terms. Do not expect to see any well trodden genre tropes here, there are some vague reference points (haunted house for example) but they are used in a unpredicatable way. Personally I did not find it  remotely frightening in any aspect, bar the thought of the amount of drugs the production team may have been taking during filming, yet it still worked having a strong appeal on the level of a macabre curiosity. There is blood, there is even some gore, and a little nudity, and this twinned with the lucid dreamlike imagery and offbeat storytelling it all  makes for a dark thrillride deep into the recesses of pure fantasy.

I have to admit this has not been the easiest of reviews to write and not from lack of wanting to either, but the whole experience of this slice of cinematic mentalness is very difficult to describe in words. All I can say is watch it and you will know what I mean. I cannot recommend it enough to those who like something a little different in their horror. However be warned, because once you have watched it you will be compelled to tell people about it and you just might find yourself, like I was, lost for words.

Trailer.

Stills.

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Categories: 70's horror, Comedy Horror, Ghost and hauntings, J-Horror & Asian, Reviews

3 replies

  1. This is one of my favorite films ever! I still need to buy the US release though since I only have the Eureka edition, the US release has a short film in the extras that I want to see.

    • Yes the Criterion release has some brilliant extras, it’s only about £8 on Amazon UK so an absolute bargain!

      • Yea man £8 is dirt cheap! Have you seen the short on it, it’s not meant to be great but it is meant to be very strange & is why I need to buy the US release… Eureka should have had it on their’s but I chose to get the Eureka version because I like the books that come with the films.

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