House is more than just an acid trip


Tobey Veenstra

The Broadside

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The first descriptions that I heard for the Japanese horror film House were things like “Evil Dead II on acid,” “Douglas Sirk on acid,” and, well, pretty much anything else you can think of… on a lot of acid. While these descriptions are all accurate, House is more than just a huge acid trip. I know it sounds weird saying “just” a huge acid trip, but you’ll know what I mean after seeing this film.

House is the 1977 debut feature of Japanese director, Nobuhiko Obayashi, who based the plot on an idea from his seven-year-old daughter. It follows seven girls (with such names as Gorgeous, Kung Fu and Melody) who head out to the house of one of the girl’s aunts. The aunt turns out to be possessed and soon enough the girls start getting picked off one-by-one by the aunt, the haunted house, and various haunted furniture—like pianos and lampshades—all with the help of one very demonic cat.

The film plays like a syrupy-sweet 70s commercial that at some point —probably around the time the main characters board a cartoon train—veers into horror movie territory. The sweetness and surrealism continues, but given this new setting, it only makes the film more bizarre and unpredictable.

The scenes are illuminated by rave lights and feature dancing plastic skeletons, dancing set pieces and dancing dismembered body parts. It’s not so much a film to laugh at as it is a film to laugh with. It’s a horror film totally aware of how ridiculous it is and thus doesn’t hold back on the silly acting or its cheap (and very creative) special effects.

Although made in 1977, House was finally released and distributed to select art house theaters in the U.S. by Janus films. A Criterion Collection DVD is likely to be released later this year in the US.

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