“One of the most, if not the most, original films I’ve ever seen… and I’ve seen some weird stuff.”–Ti West, director of House of the Devil
DIRECTED BY: Nobuhiko Obayashi
FEATURING: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Yôko Minamida
PLOT: A group of fun-loving Japanese school girls plan to spend their summer at a beautiful, isolated mansion, but after experiencing paranormal activity they come to realize the house itself may want them dead. Their mysterious wheelchair-bound hostess seems to have a nefarious fate in mind for her guests, but the girls are oblivious to the warning signs. Their affable, mutton-chopped teacher is en route to the house, but may not make it in time to save them—and indeed, has no idea they are even in danger.
- Hausu was writer/director Obayashi’s first full-length feature. He had previously made a name as a director of commercials, though he had also made some experimental art films in the 50′s and 60′s.
- The movie draws concepts from popular Japanese folklore/horror movie tropes, including a kaibyo: a half-feline, half-demon who can move between cat and human bodies. Much of the plot was actually inspired by the “eccentric musings” of Obayashi’s eleven-year-old daughter.
- Hausu was initially intended as a horror-thriller meant to appeal to a teen audience, as Toho Studios tried to compete with Hollywood blockbusters like Jaws that were dominating the Japanese box office. The film was released on the bottom half of a double bill along with a sweet teen romance, sporting the tagline “How Seven Beauties Were Eaten!”
- Obayashi spent two years working on the story and music, working with pop group Godiego on the soundtrack. He also inserted cultural and era-specific references in his casting of the teen-idol lookalikes. Hausu was a big hit in Japan, establishing Obayashi as a well-known and successful filmmaker. Today he is popular for his anime and manga adaptations. In 2009 he received the imperial badge of the Order of the Rising Sun, along with Clint Eastwood.
- Despite its popular success in Japan, House was never released in the United States until recently. After a spectacular success debuting at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival, the film was picked up for screenings across the nation.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Almost any scene could fit the bill, but the most infamous and iconic sequence is the ravenous piano gradually chopping up the music-loving “Melody” as her friend helplessly watches. With a mixture of live-action and animation techniques, the scene depicts various body parts flailing throughout the instrument (after she’s somehow been stripped of her clothes, of course) and colorful effects. Sounds of pounding piano keys mix with screams and, for an unknown reason, laughter, as a display skeleton dances goofily in the background. It’s a strange scene, both hilarious and terrifying.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A more apt question would be, what doesn’t make it weird? Rife with images of flying heads, murderous furniture, laughing watermelons, an invisible wind machine, and a truly demonic kitty, the film’s surrealist atmosphere and ever-shifting styles are as hilarious as they are inscrutable. There is no way to get a handle on Hausu—the viewer is completely at the mercy of Obayashi’s bizarre whims.
Brief Clip from House (Hausu)
COMMENTS: This movie starts off as a laughably saccharine, soft-glow teenage drama, Continue reading 71. HOUSE [HAUSU] (1977)