I had heard of the cult classic Japanese movie House in hushed tones and wicked whispers but nothing could prepare me for the sheer insanity of this horror comedy that is both hilarious and horrifying in equal measure.
Brought to Blu-ray by the magnificent Masters of Cinema everyone is now allowed to revel in its completely unpredictable comedic lunacy and that is a wonderful thing indeed, believe me.
Made by the legendary Toho studios, creators of Godzilla, who asked Nobuhiko Ôbayashi to make them something akin to Jaws the surreal director crafted a story with Chiho Katsura (the writer of Lusty Transparent Man) based on the ideas of his pre-teen daughter Chigumi and nothing at all like Jaws.
Put on hold for 2 years as no one wanted to direct it finally Ôbayashi stepped up and this strange shocking cinematic fever dream was born. Staring predominantly amateur actors as six school girls on summer vacation at the strange rural home of the seventh girl Angel’s (Kimiko Ikegami) Auntie (Y?ko Minamida) the gang find themselves face to face with strange and sick supernatural occurrences that increase as their numbers diminish.
Like a Seventies Asian Spice Girls the school girls all bear names instantly explaining their characters including the bookish spectacle wearing Prof, cute and kind Sweetie, musically talented Melody, food obsessed Mac (as in stomach), kick ass super powered Kung Fu and dreamy escapist Fantasy who is Angel’s best friend.
Their de facto leader Angel is troubled by her father introducing a new woman into her life as a replacement to her dead mother who she misses dearly and this distress plus the arrival of a fluffy white cat named Snowy forces her to flee to her Auntie’s having not seen her for many, many years.
Wheelchair bound and decrepit Auntie is overly enthused when the nubile, joyful and excitable girls arrive at her abode all of them oblivious even after being given an unwelcoming warning from a weird watermelon man to what awaits them.
But when Mac disappears and Fantasy finds her severed gory head floating in the air and attacking her ass things start to escalate and Auntie, Snowy and the houses truly evil and insidious intentions are slowly revealed.
Plot wise the themes and story draw from traditional fairy tales especially around Angel’s love of her mythical mother and rejection of her replacement alongside the figure of Auntie as a wicked witch growing stronger with each girl she literally eats regaining her youth and increasing her and the houses powers.
Best viewed with no idea of what is to come House is infused with weirdness in a multitude of forms from the Seventies style oddball editing, pop music asides and wacky comedy to the nightmarish Japanese horror to the purposely unrealistic special effects to the all-out martial arts fight scenes.
Although predominantly enjoyable nonsense some scenes of horror tap into deeper darker areas due to their randomness and dreamlike quality. Moments such as Melody being eaten by the piano or Sweetie suffocated by futons, stripped and transformed into a doll are laugh out loud ridiculous at first but like Evil Dead by going on for so long and pushing things so far they soon become unnervingly disturbing.
The success of these scares probably comes from Nobuhiko using his daughter ideas as a basis for the whole film and her mind which was no longer a child’s but not yet a woman’s either, fusing a naive parental dependency with an obsessive interest in sexuality. He is quoted as saying adults “only think about things they understand … everything stays on that boring human level” while “children can come up with things that can’t be explained” and this is most definitely true in House.
Bat shit crazy and all the better for it House is an acquired taste for sure but like nothing you’ve seen before and all those horror fans with a penchant for the puerile and eccentric willing to take part in the experience will come out of it disturbed and entertained for sure.