House ハウス (1977)

Only recently released in the west, this horror film has earned cult status for being one of the silliest, surreal, inventive and fun horror movies ever, House is an exciting experience because  director Obayashi uses various cinematic tools to create a cross between Poltergeist and Scooby Doo.

The summer holidays have arrived and for seven high school girls named Melody, Prof,, Sweetie, Kung-fu, Mac, Fantasy and Angel they have the chance to go camping with their teacher Mr. Togo. Angel declines because her father is back from Italy and she’s looking forward to staying at a villa with him. Her plans are ruined when he introduces her to his potential new wife. Angel is upset at the presence of the woman and decides to visit an eccentric spinster aunt, inviting her friends along for the trip. After a long journey the girls arrive at the aunt’s house but find their presence has triggered a hostile force that immediately attacks them, picking them off one by one while the eccentric aunt watches.

Yoko Minamida as Auntie in House

This simple haunted house story was dreamed up by Obayashi’s daughter and sets up an environment where the house picks off the girls usually in a manner connected to the name of the girl. So Melody is despatched whilst playing a Piano and… I won’t spoil the rest but the level of invention ranges from high camp to terrifying gothic.

Enduring this are a cast of characters who, although playing types (Prof. is very logical), are enjoyable to watch. My favourite is Kung-fu because whenever she enters a scene it’s usually to a jaunty musical motif and with a combat stance. Then she smashes something.

Miki Jinbo as Kung-Fu in HouseSets are exquisite to look at, with expressive lighting, gorgeous painted backgrounds and interiors filled with familiar clutter made alien as we see props dancing, fake animals and telephone wires trying to choke people. Indeed this is the most surreal film set ever.

One of the painted backdrops in House The pace is kept snappy with a good rhythm to the scenes thanks to editing but mostly due to the verve of the direction. Within the first five minutes the audience is bombarded by a variety of visual tricks and distorted audio seemingly from a hyper-active imagination but it becomes expressive utilising split screen, freeze frames, slow motion to deliver story and scares.

Overall it’s not scary. Atmosphere be damned, this film has so many scene breaks, interludes, odd musical tones and musical scenes that clash making creating a dissonant tone. Some sequences are entirely pointless like a stop motion comedy scene where Mr. Togo gets his behind stuck in a bucket but what the hell? Played straight, this could be very effective horror but there is a happy-go-lucky quality to it but moments of horror are off-set by the slap-stick nature of many events.

In an age where horror has become increasingly violent, realistic and downright ugly, it is nice to watch something that brings a smile instead of a wince or a sigh of boredom. Cult status deserved and more!

Extras

A special note has to be made about this edition: It’s from The Masters of Cinema series put out by Eureka! And as a result it comes in excellent packaging with a neat reversible cover. The case contains one disc which has the film and features over 90 minutes of interviews with the director, scenarist, actress and a Toho exec, the original Japanese trailer and a high quality forty page booklet.

House    House Film Poster

Japanese: ハウス

Romaji: Hausu

Released: July 30th, 1977 (Japan)

Running time: 88 mins.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi,

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Chiho Katsura (Screenplay),

Cast: Kimiko Ikegami – Angel,  Miki Jinbo – Kung-Fu, Kuniko Oba – Fantasy, Ai Matsubara – Prof., Kiyohiko Ozaki – Mr. Togo, Yoko Minamida – Auntie,

Music: Godiego

Edition: Eureka! The Masters of Cinema

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4 thoughts on “House ハウス (1977)

  1. I seen this film for the first time just this year! My life actually feels slightly more complete. I LOVE this movie and it even made my top films of the seventies list. I loved the painted backdrops and the giggly girls named after their personalities are a ton of fun. Really, I just thought every aspect of this film was a ton of fun and the Criterion version (I am not aware of another print) had a ton of great extras.

    1. Thanks for the reply. Obviously I totally agree with you. It’s impossible not to love this film.

      Eureka! have been putting out classic films for a while now and their selection of Japanese films is impressive.

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