Happy Halloween folks! Japan Cinema reviews the perfect film to watch on this exciting holiday. It is a classic horror Japanese film entitled Hausu from 1977. In a nutshell, House tells the story about a teenage girl named Gorgeous (yes) who along with several of her friends spend their summer vacation in her Aunt’s haunted, murderous house. The director seems to delight in retro-styled effects and sight gags, using stop motion and many other inventive techniques to create a fantastic realm of visual jokes and horror. Half-explanations are delivered by a pair of giant floating lips, body parts float in a kaleidoscopic dance, and the surviving girls are assaulted by flying furniture.
Hausu draws upon Japanese magical traditions of Yokai and witches and vengeful ghosts, but also evokes the era in which it was made. No, this isn’t some generic ghost film that seems to be oversaturated in the direct to DVD market nowadays, instead what we have here is something underground horror and experimental film lovers will appreciate. This film is downright INSANE, but it’s charming. How insane? Well, a piano EATS a girl! It’s got a lot of interesting artistic merit and clear intent to it but a minor drawback could be the bizarre nature of the film could be a bit much for some. However, if you watch this flick on Halloween, I see it being the perfect flick for the occasion.
There’s no blueprint for making a cult film, or a “good-bad” movie. It is either going to achieve this reputation, or not. If you scoop up the newly released blu-ray, you will be treated with a video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, story scenarist and daughter of the director Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chiho Katsura. All of this contains some nice insight to the films production. Hausu is one that breaks all the rules, opens doors for other independent filmmakers, and is a big hit with it’s target audience.
Check out the above clip, I’ll wait. I wanted you to watch that before going any further because that video clip alone should easily explain this movie better than I can and divide you into two, well defined groups. Criterion did an amazing job with this transfer – night and day from when I saw this on IFC a few years back and the bootleg dvd copy I had. I recommend this as a quirky film to show off to your friends. It seems likely you’d have to look to the avant-garde for comparable cinematic insanity. I do not pretend to know exactly what director Nobuhiko Obayashi was trying to accomplish here, but he did make a bizarre film that can still be enjoyed 23 years later. This is a definite purchase for fans of obscure and surreal horror.