Synopsis: How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via a series of mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equal parts absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.
eyelights: The manic, multi-faceted direction.
Wow… where do I begin?
Having never studied filmmaking, never picked up film-nerd lingo, nor read any technical books on cinema, I don’t even know how to put ‘Hausu’ into words.
But I liked it. Very much so. Loved it, really.
It’s a virtual smorgasbord of DIY filmmaking, with every possible technique available in the mid-’70s being thrown at the screen – offering us a psychodelic (sic) ghost story as blissfully kooky as it is krazy.
It’s the work of Nobuhiko Obayashi, a former TV ad genius, who honed his mad filmmaking abilities selling wares after making a series of experimental shorts (of the cinematic kind, of course).
‘Hausu’ was his first film, and it feels as though he had been bursting at the seams when he made it – as though he had so desperately wanted to put all his energy into a feature that he invested himself wholly in it.
The story is very plain, if not secondary to the picture: it’s the tale of a girl who goes to visit a long-forgotten aunt with her six best friends, only to find out that there are all sorts of ghostly apparitions, mischief and danger awaiting them.
The DVD synopsis describes it as “an episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava” and it’s perfectly apt, because it has the same manic energy as the former, and all the ingenuity of the latter. Or beyond that. It might even be Scooby-Doo crossed with Dali.
The names of the girls alone (Fantasy, Gorgeous, Kung Fu, Mac, Melody, Prof and Sweet) is indicative of how silly the film can be – it’s like bubble gum made with all the finest ingredients one can ever hope for. Basically, ‘Hausu’ is gourmet bubble gum cinema.
It a fantastic feast, but it’s strictly flighty fun – don’t expect any substance in ‘Hausu’! Do expect, however, giggles and thrills galore – it’s a whacked out ghost story that’s perfect as a late-night treat.
Words fail me. The only way to truly get a sense of what it’s about is to see it. See ‘Hausu’ and judge for yourself.
And tell me what you think of it. I’d love to know.
Date of viewing: September 24, 2012