Movie Review: HOUSE aka HAUSU (1977)

Synopsis of “House” via IMDb: Seven girls on their summer trip pay a visit to a possessed house which plans to eat them in extremely bizarre and surreal ways.

In honor of my inaugural visit to Japan I chose to review “House”. “House” is a movie that needs to be seen to be believed.  As the story goes, Japanese film executives wanted their own version of “Jaws” and the result from director Nobuhiko Obayashi was “House”. The movie has more in common with “The Evil Dead”, being a surreal and unique visual experience with a similar set-up. I’d not be surprised if Sam Raimi took some inspiration from “House”.

This is not a conventional film by any means and is wholly open to interpretation by the viewer. I saw it as a story about loss of innocence and the journey of a young girl into adulthood. “House” follows seven girls, all with distinctive nicknames (“Gorgeous”, “Prof”, “Melody”, “Kung Fu”, “Mac”, “Sweet” and “Fantasy”) that represent individual character traits that make up the psyche of a girl transitioning from schoolgirl to woman.

The girls are lead to the beautiful Japanese country home (by a cat, of all things) to stay with Gorgeous’ aunt for the summer. She’s an odd woman, to say the least, as she jumps in and out of the refrigerator and begins to kill off the girls one by one in bizarre ways. When one of the girls is eaten by a piano, you’ll realize you’re watching a film made by someone who quite possibly may have been on acid.

The visual style is inspired, with a vibrant palette painting a dreamlike world for its characters to live in. The inventive editing techniques and late-70’s special effects round out the surreal package. There’s a beautiful, innocent melody
throughout that, for me, stays with you and lends to the overall creepiness.

One scene that stood out in particular, without giving too much away, involved a torrent of blood spewing out of a portrait of a cat. In a movie about transition to womanhood, I’ll let you decide what that might symbolize. This film is completely out there and unfortunately that limits its appeal. You definitely need to be in the mood for it. But, if you are looking for something that will be akin to ingesting large amounts of hallucinogens without actually doing so, then “House” needs to be seen to be believed.

Concept/Story: 1.5
Direction/Style: 2
Scares: 0.5
Atmosphere: 2
Rewatchability: 1
TOTAL: 7/10

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