The first two are quotes from characters. The third, from someone who walked into the wrong room at the wrong time while Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu (House) was on the TV.
The story follows a septet of schoolgirls (with names like Gorgeous, Fantasy and Kung-Fu) who visit one of their aunt’s (haunted!) house for summer vacation. It’s there they encounter a witch cat, a dead lizard, a dancing skeleton, a decapitated head that floats, and a piano with a taste for flesh. At 88 minutes, that’s some sort of record.
Obayashi, a veteran of commercials and shorts (1966’s Emotion is a right companion), uses animation, mattes, hokey studio sets and backgrounds, sudden bursts of vibrant color, and in-camera tricks to ludicrous excess to create his first feature, which began as a series of tales told by his 11-year-old daughter Chigumi. At 88 minutes…
Hausu is pure midnight movie, defying genre (though it’s primarily a horror-comedy hybrid, with hints of musical and fantasy) and many (myself included) claiming it as their “You’ve got to see this!” trump card.
With this year’s Janus Films revival run and home video debut in the United States, it’s past time for aficionados of obscure and surreal cinema to discover this ridiculous, unexplainable and weird secret masterpiece.
Constructing a House (45:56): Recorded in 2010, this documentary uses video interviews with Obayashi, his daughter/story scenarist Chigumi Obayashi and screenwriter Chino Katsura to detail the director’s commercial days, the story’s origins, the memorable score, the cast, “bucking the system,” the special effects, the reception upon release, and more.
House Appraisal (3:47): Director Ti West (The House of the Devil) discusses the weirdness of Hausu, concluding “it succeeds on multiple platforms.”
Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 24-page booklet featuring an essay titled “The Housemaids” by Chuck Stephens.