This weekend the IFI is hosting a virtual festival dubbed the Japanese Story. This collection of films that represent Japanese cinema throughout the decades showcases some of the best films that Japan has offered. My first foray into the Japanese Story is the 1977 horror/comedy Hausu aka House.
House follows Gorgeous and her six friends as they go to her estranged aunts for their summer weekend. Gorgeous hopes to reconnect with her aunt as a last way to hold onto her memories of her dead mother. The reasoning behind this is her father has returned home with a new wife and Gorgeous is not happy about this.
So when they arrive at the mountaintop manor of the auntie, supernatural events occur and the girls aren’t sure what to do, with terrifying consequences.
What am I watching!?
House is perhaps the most bonkers and unnerving film I have ever seen. It is a fever dream of surreal imagery and often off-putting humour. There is no time wasted on characters as each of the cast is defined by their name. You have Sweetie, Mac, Fantasy, Kung Fu, Prof, Melody and the previously mentioned Gorgeous. From the first visual of this group you immediately know who is who and what their deal is. So the rest of the film is all about setting up these archetypes in a horror house and seeing how they all deal with it. It’s fascinating because you then see which aspect you are closest to would react and it’s almost like you’re seeing which would get you killed faster.
Another aspect I adored was the visuals. This is very much a comedy, it does some simply ridiculous visual gags that made me laugh out loud. One scene involves Mr Togo the only male figure in the cast getting slowed down by an accident and it plays out like a Loony Tunes cartoon. You then move to a scene where there is this eerie manor reminiscent of the castle in Nosferatu and you almost get whiplash with the change in tone. Add to that a score that does not match the visuals and you can find yourself deeply unnerved. I know this is how I felt.
Wha’s in this House!?
House feels like a funhouse gone horrifically wrong in the best possible way. I watched this virtually with friends and we all had a blast. This may have been due to my friends gleefully laughing at my almost constant freakouts. House’s conflicting tones of horror and comedy unnerved to such a degree that I was a little overwhelmed.
There is also the special effects as well as the practical makeup that were impressive for the time. There is something about ’70s era makeup that always gets me. I’m not sure why. There is a particular scene involving a demonic watermelon head (it makes sense if you watch the film) that just completely broke me and it’s early in the film.
Everything in House feels on purpose. The parodies, the strange jokes, the unnerving score that does not suit the scene it’s in, all make strange sense. This is a film I’m so happy I saw even if it is likely to give me nightmares. I can’t wait to see what else IFI’s Japanese Story has to offer. And be sure to check it out yourself if you have the chance. Follow this link to learn more.
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