Cult Cinema / Halloween Horror #5: House

House has to be the happiest horror movie ever committed to celluloid.

Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, House has all the zany qualities you would expect from a Japanese film made in the 1970’s. It’s very hard to actually explain the events of this movie to someone who hasn’t seen it. It’s just so bizarre that they would think you are just making everything up.  The story centers on a schoolgirl named Gorgeous (yes, that’s her actual name) and her six friends who decide to spend summer vacation at her aunt’s big scary house out in the country. The girls are stereotypical archetypes, so much so that they are actually named after their tropes!  Kung Fu does martial arts, Melody likes to play the piano and the list goes on. I found it cheesy in an endearing way.

Everything is filmed in an extremely cheerful way with bright colors and a joyful soundtrack to match.  There are a lot of odd scene transitions, split-screens and LSD inspired situations. It does take awhile for things to become scary but House really hits its stride when it kicks in. The special effects are done in a very cartoony fashion and I know some people are not going to like the way it looks. Supposedly, Nobuhiko Obayashi asked his young daughter to tell him what kind of things scared her and that’s how he decided what to put in the film. It has that disjointed quality that comes with a child explaining events and it is almost like a fever dream.

Because the mood is so jovial, even during the scary scenes, House never becomes a horror movie in the traditional sense.  It’s more akin to going on one of those haunted house rides, where scary things pop up in your face but you end up laughing at how silly everything is.  The spastic directorial style reminded me of Sam Raimi and I wonder if he saw House before making Evil Dead.  They even have a few scenes in common, which I found interesting.  Overall, House is a departure from serious business horror movies and it’s worth a look, especially if you enjoy 1970’s era Japanese cinema.

-Review by Michelle Kisner