Thursday, March 4, 2010

"House" (1977) Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

The Japanese film "House" made in 1977 by Nobuhiko Obayashi is one of his first major films. It is a type of horror movie with notions of experimental art-video and other freaky effects. There are swipes, odd iris transitions, overlapped images... and other unexpected play with the real and unreal.

The plot is simple. A teen girl Oshare (Gorgeous) was going to spend the summer with her father; but he brought his new beautiful girlfriend (who is repeatedly framed in flowing fabric and over-the-top romantic music.) It made me giggle. Oshare is annoyed with the new plans since she lost her mother recently- so the teen girl decides to go visit her aunt instead at an old 'haunted' house with all her friends. The group of girls all represent some sort of personality. There is Fanta (who takes pictures and daydreams), KungFu (tough girl and fights), Gari/Prof (book nerd), Sweet (likes to do housework), Mac (plump teen that is always eating), and Melody (a musician who plays piano.)

When they finally arrive at the aunt's house the film truly begins. The artificial sky is something like a rejected Wizard of Oz backdrop. Lush oranges and cut-out green-screened images combined with the haunted house give it a surreal magic quality. It has this 70's soft-focus feel but also something warm and familiar. There will be loud and explosive horror scenes (for example a decapitated head flying and biting the girls ass) and suddenly silence as the girls are giggling and laughing it off.

To follow this film in any coherent manner is not that important. It just keeps getting weirder by the minute. There is a wonderful play between using objects to emphasize humor or horror (the sleazy guy that turns into many bananas) and using video affects to show the colorful violence (cut off fingers playing the piano.)

And speaking of music there is an eerie piano motif throughout.
I would not describe this as a horror movie in that you will be scared... but it does feel at times like you have no idea what is happening. There are moments that I felt like I had just been dosed with Acid... a scene where the group of girls decide to call the police and the frame-rate and audio shift into something slower and other-worldly.

Perhaps it may be seen as campy. But I need to see this kind of cinema. I highly recommend "House." Watch it alone, watch it with friends. But keep an open mind and open heart. There is something really endearing and dream-like about this film.