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House: A Review: (I Tried)

July 7, 2010

So, initially I was going to write about this thing that I saw several months ago (and which I subsequently repressed from memory because it is completely horrifying).  It’s a non-official, Twilight-themed dildo called The Vamp (link nsfw) and it’s users are encouraged to “toss it in the fridge for that authentic experience”.  GAH.  Before this afternoon, it was one of the weirdest, most confusing things I had ever laid eyes on.

Then I saw a matinee showing of Nobuhiko Obayahshi’s 1977 film House.

Where do I even begin.  (The Sparklecock seems so innocent and mainstream now).

In a nutshell, House tells the story about a teenage girl named Gorgeous (yes) who along with several of her friends spend their summer vacation in her Aunt’s haunted, murderous house.  There is much, much more to the story than that, of course – demonic possessions, decapitations, ass-biting, eye-ball consumption, limb severance, a man-eating piano, a Witch Cat, a blood-barfing painting of said Witch Cat, a man inexplicably transforming into a pile of bananas and some funny business with a chandelier – it’s a lot to suss out.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the movie is damn-near impossible to review…but I loved it and I am going to try.

Gorgeous is prompted to contact her Aunt – with whom she hasn’t spoken in 8 odd years – after engaging in an awkward argument with her father, a widower, who wants to remarry.  Initially planning on spending her summer at the family vacation home with her father, Gorgeous becomes furious when he introduces his bride-to-be in the most hilariously creepy and sudden method possible.  (That his future wife is swathed in flowing chiffon and is constantly being fanned by an off-screen wind source anytime she is onscreen adds a layer of humor).  Gorgeous impulsively writes to her long-lost Aunt and asks if she can come and visit – oh and do you mind if I bring six or so friends?

The girls excitedly make their journey into the countryside and when they meet the Aunt, who is indroduced in a wheelchair and seemingly helpless, they offer to help fix up her enormous but dilapidated home.  There are a few, harmless jump scares here and there as the girls explore the house and all but one – a girl named Fantasy – seem pretty oblivious to any danger lurking even after one of them goes missing.  Gorgeous’ Aunt seems invigorated and returned to top-health by the presence of the girls – while Fantasy begins to suspect that sinister deeds are afoot.  (And by suspect I mean, Fantasy pulls the severed head of her missing friend out of a well.  And by strange things I mean, the disembodied head giggles and bites her on the ass - before barfing blood all over where it’s body should be).

This is where – if I may use the vernacular popular with the kids today – things really start to go bugfuck.  Girls start disappearing into the house one by one – as if consumed by it.  Gorgeous learns that her aunt is really some kind of malevolent, love-sick spirit and becomes possessed by her.  A girl named Melody has first her fingers, then her hand and finally her entire body consumed by a man-eating piano.   A girl named Kung Fu fights with animated furniture, a telephone and most notably a chandelier – before finally succumbing to her death.  Fantasy and a girl named Prof are left to fight Gorgeous/Aunt Demon who explains that she eats unmarried girls out of resentment while she waits for her presumed-dead fiance to return to their home – her beloved was MIA in WWII and she clearly hasn’t been able to move on.  Prof and Fantasy deduce that Blanche the house cat is also a Witch Cat who must be destroyed, so they act in the most logical way possible by destroying a painting of the Witch Cat (like you do), which in turn becomes animated and barfs enough blood to fill a room and drown at least one of the girls.  Fun!

Fantasy, exhausted and emotionally traumatized after losing each of her friends to Possessed Gorgeous/Aunt Demon/House/Witch Cat eventually surrenders to her doomed fate and offers herself up to Gorgeous as dessert.  This would be a logical enough place for the film to end, which is exactly why it doesn’t.  Gorgeous’ father’s betrothed makes a windswept road-trip to visit Gorgeous at her Aunt’s house to make ammends with Gorgeous, who remains under the vengeful influence of her Aunt’s spirit.  Gorgeous/Aunt Demon (and her insatiable appetite for unmarried women) is all to happy to greet her, sagely adding that the other girls will wake up when they get hungry.  It’s a fantastic ending, weirdly and surprisingly cyclical given the bizarro-world nature of the thing.

I should mention here that I am absolutely and unironically in love with the special effects in this film.  Distributed by Toho Studios- known for producing films such as Godzilla as well as for their unique style of special effects – Obayahshi utilizes animation, mattes, blue screen and super-imposed images throughout the film.  The matte backdrops are cartoonishly lush and downright cheerful, an effect that adds a layer of WTF to a film that is conceptually rooted in horror elements.  There are animated components of this film that, while dated by today’s standards, appear to  have been influential in some of Eric Wareheim’s directed videos (link nsfw) among others.

House is one of the most bizarre, fun and creepy films I have ever seen.  I don’t use drugs, but I’ve been really sick with the flu before and I imagine the experience of viewing this film lands somewhere between a fever of 104 and condensing a 12 hour acid trip into 87 minutes.  Describing a film this visually bugged-out with mere words seems pathetically insufficient – there is not a single element of this movie that is easily explained or rationalized.  I implore you to watch the trailer here and then do everything in your power to watch the film in it’s entirety.

Janus Films are touring it around the country and I highly recommend catching it should it come to a theater near you…in fact, it’s worth driving to an inconveniently located theater if you have to.  Seriously, it’s magical.


3 Responses to “ House: A Review: (I Tried) ”

  1. Mr. Smarty Pants on July 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Where does one even *find* these sorts of movies?! Great review!

  2. Grace on July 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Hilarious. I am devastated I missed it on the big screen!

  3. cookie on July 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I must see this film. Great Review!