Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Ai Matubara
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Running Time: 87 mins
House is a Japanese film about a group of high school girls who travel to one of their aunt’s country house for summer vacation, but soon realise the place is straight out of a horror movie.
Famously one of the craziest films in cinema history, House errs between brilliant horror and ’70s satire and plainly unintelligible mess over the course of 87 ludicrous minutes. At times, it’s a film that’s almost too weird to know how to watch, but there’s no faulting director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s commitment to this masterpiece of insanity.
Normally, I’d call an odd film ‘a bit of an acquired taste’. House, however, is so out there that there’s surely nobody on this planet that’s acquired this taste just yet, because there’s something so entertainingly frustrating about this movie from start to finish.
Swinging wildly over the course of its short runtime between flat-out comedy and bizarre haunted house movie, it’s almost impossible to know exactly where you stand with House, as you desperately try to wrangle some sense out of its non-sequitur story, and its increasingly preposterous horror set-pieces.
The film is very much at its best when it unites horror and comedy to the extreme – that is when main characters are being brutally eaten by pianos, or celluloid cut-outs of decapitated limbs are flying all over the screen as the titular house begins to erupt with fountains of blood.
I don’t know either. House is at times so strange that there’s no choice but to sit back and laugh, even if it’s just at the fact that director Nobuhiko Obayashi managed to bring what feels like a fever nightmare or a psychotic episode to life in such confusing yet appealing style.
There are points earlier on in the film where the seemingly random brand of comedy can be more perplexing than genuinely funny. The off-kilter editing style is jarring to say the least, although it plays into the movie’s out-of-left-field satire of classic ’70s media tropes, taking aim at the cheesiest TV shows of the day.
Again, I’ve got no idea why that makes its way into a comedy-horror like this, but it would be foolish to expect anything reasonable from House. It may not be a masterpiece of horror – it’s certainly not as spooky and disturbing as the darkly thrilling Suspiria, released in the same year – but as a hyper-stylised bit of Japanese madness, House more than does its job. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.