House (Hausu) 1977

by: Reverend Jon

“House, HOUSE” moans a throaty man’s voice in time with the opening animation, and with that you know that you’re getting into something a little bit…different.

This movie is notorious in the weird-manga-loving community and I had only seen YouTube excerpts of it. It’s unavailable in any official format, and I had never tried looking for a bootleg to download. Then, much to my delight, they started screening a brand-new, never-before-seen-in-the-US 35mm print at the IFC Center here in New York. I got tickets and the BF and I went for the sold-out screening on Valentine’s Day. What can I say? I’m a romantic.

This picture captures the essence of the film: a uniquely Japanese saccharine sweetness surrounding a core plot of bloody cannibalistic death. The basic story is that Gorgeous (Oshare in Japanese, but I think the translations of the names give a better sense of how silly the movie is) is a schoolgirl who doesn’t have anywhere to go for spring break. Her father has invited his new girlfriend along on their vacation, a little too soon after Gorgeous’ mother’s death for her comfort, and so she decides to ditch her daddy and take her gang of uniquely talented friends to her estranged aunt’s house.

Auntie is sweet and in a wheelchair–at first. Her house is creepy and pretty soon the girls are dropping like flies.

As the aunt, with the help of the bewitched house, picks off and eats the girls one-by-one, she gains strength and, before long, she’s up and dancing. What makes this movie stand out from your run-of-the-mill camp is a very high production value.

Most of it is obviously filmed on a set, but the backgrounds are beautiful, luminous, painted sky- and cityscapes that really give you something to look at between grossed-out guffaws. And the effects used are really interesting film effects done with a gusto that melts away most of the cheesiness. For an example, watch the famous killer piano clip:

House solidly delivers the unexpected from start to finish. You can’t really put your finger on what kind of movie it is because it jumps from sincere conversations between characters to animated travel montages to madcap, Hard-Day’s-Night-esque slapstick to bloodbaths.

I definitely think this is a must-see and I gave it an A instead of an A+ just because it’s a little too weird to recommend to everyone, only true connoisseurs of the freaky. Apparently it was recently released in the UK on DVD, but due to region coding and the prices of imported DVDs, that doesn’t make it exactly accessible. However, keep your eyes peeled (well, not like Auntie would want you to keep them peeled) and you may get to see it at an arthouse cinema near you!

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11 Responses to “House (Hausu) 1977”

  1. THIS LOOKS AMAZING!! I’ve gotta say, any film that can be summed up as “a uniquely Japanese saccharine sweetness surrounding a core plot of bloody cannibalistic death” is right up my alley. That killer piano clip made me so happy. I can’t believe this was made in 77!

    Great review, Rev! C’mon, River Oaks Theatre, help a sister out…

  2. Yeah, I was really impressed by it, especially for the time. Because it’s not low-budget 80s, it’s like state-of-the-art 70s!

  3. I L-O-V-E the poster art. Yay scary cats! That is as close as I’m going to get to this film though, definitely NOT a Jill-flick…

  4. Yeah, the art is great for the film as a whole, and the posters definitely reflect that. What is an example of a Jill-flick? Just so I know for next time…

  5. So glad that I could convey the feeling I had while watching it, Posh.

  6. as a “true connoisseurs of the freaky,” i say this film ROCKS! can’t wait to see it again when the new 35mm print comes to L.A. next month!

  7. You are in for a real treat, it’s gorgeous and the sound is very good.

  8. Why must you torture us so, Jon? “Here’s this awesome movie but it’s nearly impossible for you to see it.” That’s cool, the poster and stills are pretty damn cool as a stand alone. I’ll just hold out hope that one day it’ll come my way.

  9. You’ll see it one day, and it will be that much better for all the antici

    pation.

  10. […] Danny Isn’t Here, Mrs Torrance review […]

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