Awfully Good: House

Continuing in the “Japanese-people-are-severely-f*cked-up” genre from last week's ROBOGEISHA, we now take a look at the freaky three-headed godmother of all weird Asian movies—HOUSE.

House (Hausu) (1977)

Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Stars: Miki Jinbo, Kimiko Ikegami, Kumiko Ôba

Is there a plot?

Weird stuff happens to Japanese schoolgirls. Or "every other movie to come out of Japan."

What's the damage?

We’ve seen some trippy movies in this column (my favorite is still when The Monkees’ gave us HEAD), but this is more than an average cinematic mindf*ck. HOUSE is like having your head violently raped by a kaleidoscope while you calmly admire a surrealist painting. It’s like a fever dream that turns in to a lucid nightmare via a bad acid trip. It’s like a Japanese director that got tired of making movies through rational cognition and wanted to assault the audience's sensibilities until they felt the same way.

As he laid eyes upon his long lost daughter for the first time, the Human Torch immediately regretted not using protection.

There's so much weird, random and vivid imagery in HOUSE that I could do another one of those photo reviews like last week, but this is a film that deserves an attempt at written explanation. That’s actually harder than it sounds, considering what happens in the movie. Take our Best Line contender, for example: a scene which sees a man drive up to a fruit stand to inquire with a local farmer about the whereabouts of some missing girls. A normal film made by people of common sense would play these few moments of dialogue straightforward with an establishing shot and some talking heads. But not HOUSE. In HOUSE, the farmer, who looks remarkably like Gungan Boss Nass from STAR WARS, declares the girls were eaten, before asking the man if he likes watermelon. For some (no) reason, this freaks the visitor out and he begins jumping up and down and yelling "BANANA!" at the top of his lungs. At this point, the farmer naturally turns in to an animated skeleton and collapses to the ground, except for his floating, smoking skull. The other man runs back to his car, where he continues to proclaim his devotion to peelable yellow fruit while hitting himself on the head. The scene is also edited by a meth head, with constant wipes, whips and nonsensery.

The porno version of GODZILLA was smart to replace the monster with a naked Japanese girl.

And while it's absolutely fascinating and entertaining to watch, this is only the tip of the very, very curious iceberg. I'm not exactly sure what I witnessed throughout HOUSE but here are some wild guesses:

  • A girl getting eaten by a piano
  • Ass-biting floating ghost heads
  • Girls attacked by pillows (aka death by Tempur-Pedic)
  • Blood vomiting cats
  • Blood floods (great band name!)
  • Arterial bleeding geishas
  • Random musical moments (in English)
  • Dancing skeletons
  • Kung fu wood chopping
  • Girls attacked by a chandelier
  • Animated torsos and random dismembered body parts

    The menstrual symbolism is deep and meaningful.

    And those are only major moments or set pieces. The film is riddled with constant weirdness, hyperactive transitions, a groovy 70s soundtrack that doesn't fit the content at all, psychedelic effects and random animation. Supposedly director Nobuhiko Obayashi wanted the special effects to look as if a child created them, and I'd say he succeeded. Most of the visual elements look like a kid literally drew on the screen or cut out construction paper and glued it on the frame. Even the “normal” parts of the film, where nothing overtly weird is taking place, still look like an overproduced dream. The skies are painted for no reason, people speak in strange fashion and nothing makes any freaking sense.

    The 25th Annual Sailor Moon Convention, otherwise known as PedoCon '11.

    The story is a fairly straight forward horror fairy tale about a young girl and her friends visiting an aunt and staying in the old lady's haunted house…which wants to eat them. That bare framework of a plot seems sensible, but everything else in between is gloriously incomprehensible celluloid gibberish. Even the characters are bizarre clichés with names like Gorgeous, Fantasy, Sweet and Kung Fu. The main group of girls is comprised almost solely of non-professional actresses, which makes sense. I suppose in a movie where a girl gets chomped on by a Wurlitzer, or a guy who gets his bum stuck in a bucket for an extended period of time, you don't want any actual acting getting in the way of…whatever.

    Only in Asia would Kirsten Dunst's snaggletooth catch on as a fashion accessory.

    Things are weird throughout the film, but the last 30 minutes or so of HOUSE really crank up the insanity. I can't even begin to describe what occurs when the titular residence finally goes full retard. (You'll just have to check the video clips below.) HOUSE is not as crazy in terms of violence or shocking content as some modern movies, but it is amazing in its own right, not to mention a breeding ground for an entire genre of crazy films yet to come.


    "Best" Line

    A simple exchange of dialogue turns in to something I can't even describe.

    "Best" Parts

    1) Four WTF moments: a girl gets some head, a girl gets eaten by a piano, a nice musical moment with an old lady, a cat and a skeleton, and a girl fights off some wood.

    2) A snippet from the end of the film, where all hell breaks loose.

    Nudity Watch

    You get a quick peek while a girl takes a bath, as well as random floating boobs. That sounds weird but it—well, it still doesn't make sense in the context of the film.


    Probably the only Awfully Good movie to ever get a Criterion treatment. Buy this movie here!

    Play Along at Home!

    Take a shot or drink every time:

    • The cat's eyes glow
    • The cat screeches
    • There's an abrupt change or shift in tone or content
    • There's a weird transition
    • Someone makes some kind of cinematic reference

    Double shot if:

    • Something really weird happens and you feel like you need a drink


    Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: Digital Dorm
Tags: awfully good



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