If you indulge yourself in Anime, J-Pop, or Japanese cinema, chances are you’re bound see something that will simultaneously leave you in a state of fascination and disbelief. Some examples might include, “traps” (male characters who dress and look like cute women), Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s mind-tripping music videos, and creepy apparitions that emerge from your TV screen (Ring). But honestly, the previous oddities that I mentioned earlier did absolutely nothing to prepare me for House.
House is a horror movie that came out in 1977, and it encompasses a wide array of different emotional undertones. This feature carries itself with a copious amount of artistry, eccentricity, and giddiness; qualities that you normally wouldn’t associate with most films that fall under the horror genre. While the overall narrative is fairly barebones, (a collective of seven high-school girls hang out at a haunted house along the countryside during a school break, and then get brutishly eliminated one by one) it is exquisitely contrasted with rather provocative and transcendental camerawork. A lot of scenes play out like a hodgepodge of avante-garde and obscure MTV music videos from the 80’s and 90’s (back when MTV was still a creative outlet and platform for musical culture).
How this film came to fruition is pretty mind-boggling and something out of the ordinary. It was produced by Toho Studios, which is incredibly famous for it’s involvement with the Godzilla franchise, and plenty of iconic Akira Kurosawa films. The higher-ups within Toho chose Nobuhiko Obayashi to direct this project, who previously worked on TV commercials prior to directing House. While you’d probably expect most directors to attain insight or transformative influence from other films with similar themes and concepts, Obayashi mainly drew ideas from the dreams and nightmares that his young daughter would have, which leads to a horror film with a slightly ethereal and child-like aesthetical presentation.
Another distinguishing quality that sets House apart, besides the whimsical nature and gruesome gore, is how it’s able to conjure up surreal and genuinely disturbing imagery despite offering very little explanations of the world of this film. One notable scene is where one of the girls is attentively staring at a mirror and she sees someone else’s face rather than her own (I think it was either a younger version of her mother or aunt), the mirror cracks and starts oozing out blood profusely, her body is then slowly engulfed in flames as she continues to gaze idly at her disfigured self. This part of the movie did strike me with fear because I do sometimes have dreams of similar nature, and it gave me Silent Hill 3 flashbacks (particularly the mirror room).
All in all, House is an ambitiously inventive and kooky take on the horror genre. While the overall backbone of the story is a bit lackluster and paper-thin, it exudes a lot of visual flair and ingenuity that very few modern-day horror films offer to movie-goers. House is a genre-bending experience that will give you a deeper sense of appreciation for the macabre aspects of horror, while also brimming with absurdist hilarity at the same time.