If 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.
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.
Watch the trailer here.