house | nobuhiko obayashi | chiho katsura | kimiko ikegami | miki jinbo | kumiko oba | ghost | ghosts | haunted | haunted house | arthouse | surreal | comedy | japan | possession | possessed | ai matsubara | mieko sato | eriko tanaka | masayo miyako | kiyohiko ozaki
Film: House (Hausu)
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Writer: Chiho Katsura
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo and Kumiko Ôba
This is a movie that I originally learned about due to the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Films. This was featured as one of the selections. It sounded wild so it went on a list of movies to check out in the genre. This is also one that would pop up from time to time on podcasts, which just made me want to see this even more. The poster I saw with the cat was also great, so another check in its favor. I’ve also rewatched this now as it was shown in 35mm at the Gateway Film Center.
Synopsis: a student and six of her classmates travel to her aunt’s country home, which turns out to be haunted.
What I’m going to start off stating is that this is a difficult one to recap. I’m going to flesh out the synopsis a bit before getting into my thoughts. There is a teen girl named Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami). She is expecting to go on a trip with her father who works in the film industry and has been away working in Italy. He is known in the credits as Daddy Kogarashi (Saho Sasazawa). He has disrupted her plans though. Gorgeous’ mother passed away and he is now going to marry Ryôko Ema (Haruko Wanibuchi).
To get back at him, Gorgeous writes to her aunt to see if she can stay with her over the break instead. She gets confirmation as her aunt would love to see her. She ends up inviting her group of friends to join. They consist of names that correlate to what they like or are good at. There is Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Fantasy (Kumiko Ôba), Prof (Ai Matsubara), Mac (Mieko Satô), Melody (Eriko Tanaka) and Sweet (Masayo Miyako).
This turns into a nightmare though. The house seems to be haunted and there’s something not quite right about Auntie Karei Hausu (Yôko Minamida). It becomes a fight for survival as the house tries to take each girl one by one. It isolates them to make it easier and they don’t believe anything is happening at first. Can they break the curse before it is too late?
Now one of the first things that I saw when going to write this review was about how this is an experimental film. That is spot on. This definitely has vibes of arthouse with things that it does. We get interesting camera angles. There are effects that are weird and odd. When the hauntings are attacking people, there are things that don’t necessarily work with the laws of physics. I’m going to give credit here to the cinematography and the effects. Being that this is from 1977, they went practical. What I’m going to say is that not all of them work. They were done with practical and in camera effects, so regardless of how they look, I’m there for it. I give them credit for this trippy movie for sure.
Shifting from this, I did want to say that even though this is a basic story and one that we’ve seen before, the visuals help make this stand out. This almost feels like a precursor to something like The Grudge. I don’t know enough of the backstory there as to where the idea came from outside of the director’s daughter having a nightmare and that became the basis. We have this haunted house. Auntie Karei is stuck there for a promise she made. When we learn the reason for it, it is sad. It also makes sense as well. I even like the bit of commentary that comes with it as it pulls World War II into it. There is a cat, Blanche, who is considered a ‘witch cat’. Gorgeous and her friends fall in love with it, but this cat also could be behind the haunting as well. This feels like Japanese lore. As a cat lover all of this makes me smile. Even more so with imagery and the poster as to how it factors into the lore.
Something that I laughed at when I first saw it is the name of the characters. I’ll be honest, these girls looked similar to me so I’m glad that they named their traits. Gorgeous is the pretty one. Kung Fu can fight. Fantasy has dreams of things that she gets lost in. Prof is the smart one, Mac likes to eat, Melody has musical talent and Sweet is innocent. I also like that this house tries to take them by capitalizing on these traits. That was a good touch for me.
Since I brought up the characters, I’ll say that the acting works for a movie like this. I’d say that Ikegami, Jinbo, Ôba, Matsubara, Satô, Tanaka and Miyako are all good as the characters we are following. Miura was good as the aunt. The rest of the characters are like cartoons in human form, but that goes with the tone of the movie. I can’t say there’s a bad performance. This does go a bit too comedic where I wanted it to play a bit straight.
There isn’t much more I can say to be honest. In conclusion, this is a trip. This would be one that I’d like to take a mind altering substance, if I did them, then watch. There is a simple story here that works. The real stars though are the visuals. Not everything looks great, but I like what they tried to do here. I’d say that the acting works for what was needed. We get an interesting soundtrack to go along with it, especially the theme of when hauntings are coming. If you like odd movies or are into arthouse cinema, give this one a watch. I did appreciate this more with a second watch, even though I do wish the comedy was toned down. Regardless, this is a trip I’d recommend to those that think this sounds good.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10