Nobuhiko Obayashi‘s hectic yet compelling ninety minute trip of a film is now presented on Blu-ray, thanks to Eureka. If you haven’t seen ‘House‘ before, it is intensely difficult to summarise in one sentence. It blends together the supernatural with the psychedelic whilst using tropes of teen drama, and fantastical imagery.
Angel’s widowed father plans to remarry. With six of her school friends, she escapes to her aunt’s isolated mansion. Thereafter things take a plunge into a horrific and sinister haze.
The formal choices are varied and interesting. In the first part of the film, there’s a brief section in part sepia and then black & white, in which the exposition about war is explained. The aunt, whose house the girls are visiting, lost her partner when he was ordered to serve in the military. More traditional films may have had this a reoccurring theme throughout, yet here it is dealt with in a light upbeat tone with the voiceover from Angel and her friends.
Obayashi worked on numerous television adverts in advance of ‘House‘. This may explain the films’ episodic form and some of the visual choices. A lot of the close-ups are of faces delivering dialogue that is to-the-point. In addition, the inclusion of the watermelons and the number of editing choices involving watermelons seems random. Surely these choices reflect a drawing together of ideas from a director with such extensive work in advertising.
The audio cuts between piano on the soundtrack to the physical playing of a piano in shot are very clever. There are jump cuts and frenzied montage, making for an unusual viewing experience. This combines with the other more obvious advertising motifs and wonderful imaginative animation and illustration stills. You certainly won’t have seen anything else like it. It is made clear though, that this isn’t just a horror film. All of the other experimental ideas merge to make something that suggests horror in many expressions.
The special features consist of a visual essay and a series of interviews. The essay by David Cairns is accessible and offers a number of angles and lenses with which to view the film. The interview with Obayashi is also worth watching. His has a willingness to discuss the film at length offers a lot of insight for the cult fans of ‘House‘. He mentions influences in the thirty minute long surrealist European shorts, most notably ‘Un Chien Andalou’. This then explains the focus on eyeballs in the some of the more extreme nightmare sequences.
Available to purchase on 12th February 2018
Zach Roddis | [rating=5]
Comedy, Horror, Fantasy | Japan, 1977 | 15 | Eureka Video | Dir.Nobuhiko Ôbayashi | Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba | Buy:House (HAUSU) [Masters of Cinema] Blu-ray