‘House’ (1977)


House (1977)

There are a lot of films called “House.” I cannot imagine what is going to challenge the experience of seeing the 1977 film House, a Japanese movie that defies conventional description on many levels. It is easily one of the strangest films I have ever seen. It is a horror movie, yet it is a film that is so cheery and puzzling that it might cause H.R. Pufnstuff creators Sid and Marty Krofft to scratch their heads. The plot is a simple haunted house premise. Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami) is angry with her father and changes her vacation plans so as to get away from him and visit an estranged aunt who has a house in the country. She brings her girlfriends along for the ride; each has a descriptive nickname. Prof (Ai Matsubara) is smart and calculating. Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo) is good at Kung Fu. As the girls begin to disappear, a Nancy Drew sort of investigation ensues.

The film tells the story of a haunting through a hodgepodge of strange special effects, cutesy animation, and unorthodox editing. There is a constant musical score that alternates between tedious and evocative. Schizophrenic excursions into side stories are jarring, no doubt due to director Nobuhiko Obayashia’s extended work in commercials. House is his feature-length film debut, and it is difficult to determine if the film is ingeniously meticulous or magically incompetent. I don’t know if it is possible to film a bad dream, but the anarchic use of transitional techniques and the bizarre attitudes of the victims lend the film a nightmarish quality. Not the sort of nightmares where a man with claws comes blazing out of a wall with children’s heads hanging off his belt, but the sort of nightmares where a child’s head hovers out of a well giggling and you engage the head in conversation as if nothing much is wrong. If you are like me, there are films you find yourself thinking about the next day. I don’t know who to recommend this movie to, but I’m definitely going to see it again.

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