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Synopsis: A schoolgirl and six of her classmates travel to her aunt’s country home, which turns out to be haunted.

Release Date: 07-30-1977 | MPAA Rating: Not rated | Runtime: 1 hr 28 mins | Deadly Watermelons: 5 of 5 | Source: Owned

Directed by: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba

House, or Hausu for the English spelling of the Japanese title, is a surrealist haunted house movie with a lot of style. The synopsis doesn’t really do the movie justice. This film is well-known among fans of Japanese horror films, but unless you’ve read lots of spoilers, you probably won’t be ready for the actual experience. I was expecting something almost completely different, and I’m glad I didn’t get what I was expecting. There are a few instances later in the movie that feature flashing colored lights and could potentially be a seizure hazard, so keep that in mind if you watch.

In the end, House is a cabin-in-the-woods story or a haunted house story, and it shares a lot of scare vibes with movies like The Evil Dead from around the same time, which is interesting because I doubt the makers of The Evil Dead knew anything about House, given that they were in the United States in the 70s. Obayashi’s editing style also has things in common with directors like David Lynch and his surrealist and dream-like style, but still remains distinctly different. The look of the film is going to be different from what most viewers are used to, but if you keep an open mind this is a really fun and expressive movie.

The performances in this movie are a little odd, almost caricatured a little bit. But I’ve seen similar acting in other Japanese films and it seems to be just a style choice. I’m not an expert on Japanese culture so I can’t say that for sure, but it feels right from what little understanding I’ve picked up. Plus it’s a surrealist film so the acting is going to be a little stranger on top of that. I think it pushes the film into horror-comedy territory, which is perfectly okay with me.

The camera work and special effects are fun to watch and pretty impressive for the 70s. Honestly for the stuff that isn’t green screen related I would be impressed even today. I love the way Obayashi frames his shots and sets up his scenes. He knows exactly what he’s doing and he has fun with it.

The scares weren’t the most amazing thing in the world, but I think the unsettling nature of the house and the way the movie was filmed were the more important part. Things get really trippy and dream-like, unnerving in the way that a dream can make you feel a little bit off when you wake up, even though you know it wasn’t a nightmare.

I absolutely recommend this movie. Fans of J-horror need to watch it. Fans of surrealist films need to watch it. People who enjoy the technical aspects of filmmaking need to watch it. This is one of my new favorite films. It was a great time to sit down and watch with friends who love movies, and that’s how I recommend enjoying it.

Published inMovie ReviewsStarred Reviews

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