Review of House

House (1977)
Japanese Schoolgirls in the House of Weird
8 November 2009
I've heard and read on numerous occasions that "House" is an incredibly weird and far-out Japanese interpretation of a haunted house movie, but the truth is that absolutely nothing can fully prepare you for how crazy & demented this film really is. To simply label "House" as a horror movie would be a serious insult, as this is more like a fairy-tale on hard drugs, a wacko coming-of-age parable and even somewhat of a musical comedy. Even the often encountered description, saying this film is what "Beetlejuice" would look like if directed by Dario Argento, comes to naught. If you really must compare this to any other films, then rank it alongside the weirdest cinematic experiments ever made, like "El Topo", "I Walk like a Crazy Horse" and "Possession". I think you can philosophy about the deeper meanings and symbolism of "Hausu" for weeks, and every opinion and interpretation could be assumed as correct. Me, personally, I regard the plot as a sort of version of "Hansel and Gretel", but with seven Japanese Gretels and no Hansel and with an auntie in a remote creepy castle instead of a witch in a gingerbread cabin in the woods. Summer vacation is coming up, but the holiday plans of the cute teen Oshare abruptly become canceled when his father introduces his new and much younger girlfriend. Instead of traveling with them, Oshare invites her six closest school friends – all of them with adorable nicknames based on their personalities, like Fantasy, Kung-Fu and Melody – to head out to the countryside and pay a visit to Oshare's aunt whom she hasn't seen since her mother died. The aunt's welcoming is extremely warm and gracious, but she as well as her estate and even the white cat Snowflake are nevertheless surrounded with an aura of mystery and creepiness. Agatha Christie style, the girls then subsequently meet their highly imaginative deaths one by one. The girl who's always hungry, for example, has her head replaced by a watermelon and the musical chick literally becomes consumed by the piano. "House" is filled with optical illusion special effects that are not exactly terrifying but nevertheless very deadly to the main characters. Even though director Nobuhiko Obayashi maintains the ambiance of a fantasy/fairy-tale movie, the imagery he uses is often bizarrely nightmarish and grim, with decapitated heads in wells and tap-dancing skeletons and whatnot. The girls' characters are beautifully drawn, and hence you feel a lot of sympathy for each and every single one of them, and it's a very stylish film altogether. Especially for being a late 70's movie – when the horror movies were at their most explicitly rancid and exploitative – "Hausu" is an artistic and elegant accomplishment and it honestly deserves to be wider known, globally acclaimed and more discussed.
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