On sale 12th Feb from Masters of Cinema. Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi.
Distressed by her widowed father’s plans to remarry, Angel sets off with six of her schoolgirl friends in tow for a summer getaway in her aunt’s isolated mansion. But all is not well – in this house of dormant secrets, long-held emotional traumas have terrifyingly physical embodiments and the girls will have to use all their individual talents if any are to survive.
This was the debut movie of commercial director Nobuhiko Obayashi, a man who had directed hundreds of adverts in Japan. Some doubted he could direct a full length feature after working in such a different field for so long.
Luckily he was more than capable, with House being the result. It’s one hell of a movie, with such a frenetic energy that come the end the viewer may well feel overwhelmed. From start to finish House is bright, loud, zany, madcap and dozens of other exciting and strange things. It feels as if Obayashi has gotten bored during every scene and decides to throw in something outrageous or completely unexpected to ensure he and in turn the viewer is left bemused (sometimes even confused).
The story plays second fiddle to the wild visions Obayashi presents, but the just of it is a young girl invites her friends to the house of her aunt whom she hasn’t seen for a long time. This friends eventually disappear, thanks to the house of all things, while the aunt seems to be aware of more than she’s letting on.
It does have an underlying message, the over the top childish nature of these young women being brought to an abrupt halt by the terrors in the house, which is most evident at the start of the story when Fantasy (Kumiko Oba) is introduced to her new stepmother and she begins to long for being younger and having her mother back again. This massive change, a new person enters her life that signifies things no longer being what she was use to, matches the period of her life.
But, again, it is the visuals of House that really make it entertaining. From cell animation cats to elderly women eating eyeballs, this film is packed with surprises. One standout scene is when a character is eaten by a grand piano. The mad, zany manner in which these are all filmed would go on to be seen in the works of Sam Raimi although he slightly toned down the humour elements.
Ironically enough this reviewer recently watched Mario Bava’s Shock which came out the same year as House and is somewhat similar with it’s tale of a haunted and threatening house. Shock is not batsh*t crazy like House, however.
The transfer job on the Blu-ray makes proceedings look even more vivid. The bright colour palette employed by Obayashi stands out more and the various special effects used stand up very well.
The release comes with a few special features, the best being a 20 minute video essay by David Cairns. Within this Cairns talks of the directors early life and how it ties into House, his career and the meaning of some of the main features more bewildering moments.