Genre: Comedy • Fantasy • Horror
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba, Ai Matsubara, Mieko Sato, Eriko Tanaka
Duration: 88 min.
A schoolgirl travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions.
House is a Japanese cult horror film directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. Released theatrically in Japan in 1977, it had been unavailable in North America until The Criterion Collection released it on DVD and Blu-Ray in October 2010.
This is an almost indescribable film with a scenario that Obayashi assembled from remnants of his daughter's dreams. It's a cleverly twisted and mashed up concoction of multiple genres with acid-trip visuals, one that Criterion quite accurately describes as "an episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava". The story involves seven young schoolgirls, who like the Seven Dwarves, are all nicknamed after their various character traits, Gorgeous, Sweet, Kung-Fu, Fantasy, Melody, Prof, and Mac. Who on summer vacation, encounter a haunted house that methodically devours them all one by one in a manner befitting their nicknames. It's told using highly stylized sequences, some of which resemble the look of old television commercials, a nod to how the director started his career.
This extravagant style purposefully morphs the horror elements into comedy turning our genre expectations on end. No camera tricks are spared, there are rapid edits, jump cuts, color and haze filters and psychedelic overlays. The set design reflects this same vision as the backdrops are all garishly painted in bright flashy colors, and the exteriors are intentionally obviously flimsy facades. Music is also used to great effect here, with an infectiously catchy recurring theme that sounds like it would be right at home in a 16-bit console RPG, and several other stereotypically 70's flavored tracks performed by Godiego that fuel the atmosphere of insanity on screen.
Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's House is an absurdly unique film, one that is impossible to adequately put into words, and really would spoil most of the fun to talk about too much. This is an essential viewing experience for fans of cult cinema and now a permanent addition to my list of films to screen at impromptu movie parties.
— Bonjour Tristesse