House (1977): The strangest horror film ever?

houseposter_500If I can promise you one thing about House (1977, dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi), it’s that this will be one of the most bizarre horror movies you will ever experience. It’s a cult film that must be seen to be believed. Six schoolgirls (with ridiculous nicknames) travel to a girl named Gorgeous’ aunt’s house in the countryside. They intend to spend a relaxing holiday in the country before going back to school, but the house has different plans. It begins to get rid of the girls, one by one, using increasingly strange methods.

The first thing that I noticed/loved about this film was its crazy editing and special effects. There are many cartoonish swipes between scenes that you might expect in a completely different type of film (as in, a film for children from maybe 30 years ago). The film looks like it’s straight out of the mind of a hyperactive, yet very creative, precocious child genius. The rumour goes that the director actually constructed the script for the film directly from the mind of his young daughter, using his own adult techniques to make her imaginations come to life on the big screen. I’m not sure if that rumour is true or not, but visually, it is certainly extremely childlike. At the same time, some of the effects are quite beautiful in their crudeness.

The majority of the actresses in House have very little previous acting experience, so their performances are not necessarily stellar. However, this works for the film. It serves the purpose of totally amping up the ridiculousness of the film. By casting amateur actors in such a clearly ridiculous horror film, the acting balances with the general quality of the film in a good way.

This is one of those horror films that gets extremely creative with the ways in which the characters die. My favourite death scene was where one of the girls is eaten by a piano. It seems vaguely psychopathic to have a favourite death scene in a horror film, but with House, you can’t help but love some of the more horrible scenes. The whole thing is quirky and funny, and this includes the moments where people might just get eaten by a piano.

In considering House alongside other horror films, you’ll see that it is incredibly unique. Is it a scary horror film? No, not really. But it is really creepy, especially when considering the childlike animation and special effects, and the acts that happen on screen. When you see animation that looks like a child has scrawled a crayon all over the screen, and then many dismembered body parts flying all over the place, the juxtaposition between the juvenile style and the adult content is fairly jarring and gives a very sinister effect.

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When you think about it, the premise of the film is very imaginative. Many items in the house come to life and attack the girls, such as the piano, lamps, cleaning utensils, stairs, paintings, clocks. The fact that these everyday items are essentially viewed and displayed from the eyes of a child, and are seen as threatening, could be analysed forever. As it is, the entertainment factor in House is extremely high. Once you see the first girl die, and how that occurs, the film causes you to continually guess which strange object will cause the most harm next.

Due to its strange, childlike effects, and its creatively murderous plot, House (1977) has earned a place on many ‘essential cult films’ lists; it’s certainly earned a place in my top ten favourite horror films list. The film gets extra points for having a super cute cat that may or may not be super bloodthirsty. House is somehow an excellent exploration of horror conventions, whilst simultaneously making a parody of it.

4/5
Watch the trailer here.

25 comments

  1. Interesting. I might just check this out at some point.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. You’re welcome! You definitely have to see it. I’d be interested to hear your take on it!

  2. I have been wanting to watch this film for a really long time.

    Love the review. Love the writing. Love the films you choose.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I haven’t been writing about film for very long so it’s so nice to hear that you’re enjoying it. 🙂 You should absolutely watch House! It’s one of those weird ones that everyone should watch, to catch a momentary glimpse of just how strange Japanese cinema has the potential to be.

  3. I actually had a chance to watch this on the big screen at a midnight showing fairly recently, and I couldn’t agree more! Not really terrifying, but completely out of this world zany, this is a movie that no matter how much you try to describe it, there’s no way to really explain just how dream-like it is except to simply say “see it”. Very high on my recommendation list, and even better with a crowd who are just out for a fun time.

    1. Wow, I would love to watch this one in an actual cinema at some point in time! You’re right – it’s difficult to accurately describe House. As soon as you figure it out in text form, it feels like there’s a lot more left to say. For me, it was a continuous, limb-flinging reminder of why I love Japanese cinema. What an amazing film. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  4. i’m chicken about Horrors, I went through a stage a few years ago when I loved them but now I’m scared to watch them. This one has been waiting for me for a while now.

    1. I think House would be a good film to ease you back in to the horror genre! It’s not too scary, and parts of it are even funny. Plus you’ll get to see some of the strangest visual effects ever.

  5. The director’s daughter did collaborate with her father to create this film as revealed on the extras of the Masters of Cinema version. I really loved House with its fun atmosphere and sense of gleeful joy over the horror distributed! Rarely have horror movies been as fun as this one and I always recommend it to people!

    1. I always recommend it to people as well! It’s such an amazing film to show people to a) introduce them to Japanese cinema, and/or b) watch them comprehend the insanity of the film. I never would have thought a joyous horror film existed before this one (and The Happiness of the Katakuris).

      1. The Happiness of the Katakuris was the film that made me like musicals. Before that, I hated them!

  6. I got to see this in theaters and was so happy when I saw a family walk in to watch this. Their kids were 9 and 10 and they looked like they really enjoyed it

    1. I am so late to replying to this comment but I loved that the kids of 9 and 10 enjoyed this! What a strange and wonderful film.

  7. Reblogged this on FILM GRIMOIRE and commented:

    I’m revisiting this classically surreal Japanese horror film tonight and thought I’d do a sneaky reblog of this vintage review of mine. Hausu is one crazy film that must be seen to be believed.

  8. I can honestly say I’ve never heard of another film anything remotely near this ha.

    1. It’s a pretty unique film! Every time I watch it I’m genuinely impressed by its weirdness.

  9. They changed so much for the TV series.

    1. However there wasn’t any lupus in the film, either.

  10. I’ll have to check this out sometime!

    #houseies
    #japanesies

    1. Yes, you have to! It’s the strangest horror film ever.

      #pianosies
      #haususies

  11. I think I may actually attempt this one! You make it sound fairly benign and you’ve definitely lit up my curiosity.
    I definitely think the director should have maybe been getting his daughter some therapy rather than giving more credence to her fears. I wonder how she turned out.

    1. You have to see it! And yeah, I hope his daughter eventually got some counselling because to imagine an entire house systematically attacking people is definitely symptomatic of something!

  12. This film is always a recommend when I buy other films on Amazon but it never provoked much interest in me until now. Maybe YOU should write the ‘product description’ for the film on the Amazon page, lol.

    1. Haha, thanks! You should see it, it’s great!

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