Today I watched Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (1977)
House is a total nonsense film, many of the ideas on display here were supposedly from the mind of the directors own young daughter and it shows in both good and bad ways, but mostly crazy ways. The film is about a group of school girls with silly nicknames that spell out each one’s sole character trait, like Gorgeous the pretty one, or Kung Fu the one that does kung fu. They have all gotten together for a summer vacation at Gorgeous’ aunt’s country home who, as it turn out, is possessed by evil!
Much like Suspiria, this is a style over substance kind of film, but unlike Suspiria this film never really establishes a consistency. Instead it is rapid fire insanity with crazy effects galore, there is little to no care for consistency in all the madness which only pushes it further into the real of the avant-garde. Pretty much every scene has a creative effect or unique camera work and that is entirely the reason to see this film, it make be kitschy and dated in he effects but it is still a very admirable expose of Obayashi’s visual flair.
My big gripe with this film is that it takes far too long to get to the craziness, especially considering the characters it establishes are quite flat. There is still plenty of fun to be had but the real attractions of this film don’t take off to their exhilarating apex until about half way in. Yet there are few films that capture the unpolished and raw imagination of a child like this one does, yet it doesn’t use this for any regulatory themes or message in the same way films like Tideland have. But then perhaps the vacancy of meaning is part of what helps capture the sense childishness throughout the film.
House is an experience movie, by which I mean it is the experience of seeing all this madness come alive on screen that is the reason to watch it. As such I recommend viewing it with a group because the reactions are often as much fun as the film itself. This is really only a horror film because of the tropes on display, it really isn’t that frightening or disturbing and for horror that is certainly a drawback. But it does dazzle and amaze and as a fan of old school and low budget effects work it appeals to me a whole heck of a lot. This is a classic showcase of some really wild visuals and effects techniques, while the story is nothing special, the parade of insanity that it leads to is very special because of just how creative and unique it is. 4/5