In a last minute substitution, I present you with the Japanese take on the old haunted house formula with Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 cult favorite House. Inspired by Jaws out of all things, Obayashi wanted to capture that same level of creativity and entertainment while simulatenously breathing new life into an already decrepit subgenre. Where did he find his inspiration? Why his pre-teen daughter Chigumi of course. Who better to dream up nightmares than an innocent child? But what could a child possibly bring to the table that we haven’t already seen? How about a house that eats people? Or maybe killer furniture? How about watermelons turning into heads? House has all of this and much, much more.
The plot is simple, which is nice because nothing else is, seven girls on summer vacation visit a possessed house which plans to eat them in extremely surreal ways. There’s also a freaky cat with the ability become animated. House is one of those things you have to see to believe which is why I recommend checking it out as either a part of the Criterion Collection or like I did, on Turner Classic Movies. Weird right? I guess some people think this movie is pretty great I’m a little more, “Say What?” When it comes to this one but still have a lot of admiration for its attention to detail.
Before going into production, Obayashi considered making this a manga and then an anime, not surprising when you see the final product. House plays with animation and detailed matte paintings frequently, it also has some bizarre J-Pop music in it. I really think OBayashi just sucked out every idea from his daughter imaginable. The mix of ideas makes the film’s mood both nightmarish, childish, and psychedelic all in one.
House is a film that I’m not sure if I hate or love. The goals are set as high as the moon but the execution so often floats around in space. I think I lean more towards liking the film. House is simply too funny and too crazy for anyone to ignore. Don’t believe me? Check out some scenes on Youtube. You’ll never go home the same again.