Fall Feature Film Flashback: House (1977)
By Kaily Kairo
With Halloweekend in the rearview and the feel-good flicks of the holidays on the horizon, it can be hard not to look back at some of the things that make October so great – like all of the weird and wonderful horror films that have defined this season for decades.
One such film is “House,” or “Hausu,” a 1977 cult classic comedy-horror movie from Japan. “House” is director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s film debut – and what a debut it is. Inspired by the fears of Obayashi’s then-preteen daughter, “House” is a collage of bizarre imagery that keeps the viewer wondering what could possibly happen next.
The film follows the journey of teenager Gorgeous and her six friends – Fanta, KunFuu, Prof, Sweet, Mac and Melody – as they travel to the countryside to visit Gorgeous’s ailing aunt. But everything is not as it seems, and the girls soon find themselves face to face with the supernatural dangers of a haunted house and, one by one, succumb to its powers.
While the plot sounds gruesome – and sure, it technically is – “House” softens its horrific blows through a fascinating blend of special effects and artistic visual techniques. The breadth and variety of these effects makes it impossible to look away as new, strange details appear on-screen at breakneck speed. One moment, the viewer is floating in a world of vibrant 2D imagery – but then, one frame wipe later, that world is repopulated with stop-motion visuals and wired props whose strings are only sometimes visible.
These lively graphics contrast with the film’s beautifully painted backdrops, which only appear during its outdoor scenes. The inclusion of these dreamy landscapes further enhances the movie’s surreal edge, and makes the titular house feel all the more haunted by comparison.
Of course, on paper, the story of “House” is rather straightforward; each character, as evidenced by their names, represents a particular personality trait, and Gorgeous’s aunt is extremely suspicious right from the get-go – but the simplicity of this narrative allows viewers to understand the plot despite its ever-changing visual landscape.
If you’re looking for a totally unique take on the classic haunted house formula, “House” is the film for you. With murderous pianos, dancing skeletons and a demonic, singing cat, “House” has it all. So grab your friends, prepare some snacks and get cozy with a horror classic this holiday season – but be warned: you’re in for a strange ride.