Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hausu (House) (1977) - dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi

Horror films are good. Japanese horror films are even better. But what about a Japanese horror film where a notable point in the story involves a man getting transformed into a giant pile of bananas?

Indeed, it is nearly impossible to prepare oneself for a film like Hausu. Calling this film “bizarre” would be a drastic understatement. It certainly is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen before, and has left me virtually perplexed, yet strangely fascinated. At the same time, the film itself isn’t necessarily “ground-breaking”, as many of the techniques used are recycled and turn the film into something that could easily be brushed off as novelty. It really has something entirely different going for it.

Trying to make sense of its chaotic story would be an act of senselessness in itself. Rather than focus on a coherent plot structure, the narrative chooses to drown it in an abundance of exaggerated special effects and cartoonish editing. Thus, this is a film about story-telling in itself. If one had to put a narrative to it, it would be of a young girl named Gorgeous who is distraught by the fact that her father has remarried. She forms plans with her estranged aunt to visit her in her mansion over summer vacation, and invites her six friends to join.

Overall, this is about as much coherence as can be found in the tale. There is some form of a subplot involving a doomed romance of the past, and even the aunt’s cat Blanche is somehow connected. Eventually, things start to go wrong when the seven girls are essentially trapped in the house, and start disappearing one by one. The first girl, Mac, is decapitated, and her floating head is turned into a watermelon. Later on, a piano eats off the fingers of the girl by the name of Melody, before consuming her body whole. And those aren’t even the weirdest scenes.

It’s really no wonder that this film is as eccentric as it is, given the fact that the director used his young daughter as a source of inspiration for much of the plot. The film does also seem to derive a load of inspiration from other cinema, from every genre imaginable. One of the girls is an expert at kung-fu, and several scenes are devoted to her simply showing off her talents (in a very wacky demeanor). After some time, the narrative itself seems to be derivative of an episode of Scooby-Doo. Even its technical aspects are consciously aware of such influence: montage sequences reminiscent of 1970’s teen comedy, kooky superimpositions of cheesy animated backgrounds, ironic usage of pop music, and unnatural neon lighting, among others. It is during Hausu’s final third when all of these aspects run wild, and create a psychedelic horror universe unlike anything else.

Does this film make very much sense? Not really. However, I think that’s the point. The film itself seems to be very conscious of the fact that it isn’t conventional. Hausu doesn’t seek to scare audiences, or leave them at the edge of their seats, or even to form any sort of valuable ties with the characters or events at all. It seeks to create an atmosphere that is difficult to describe, perhaps hard to swallow, yet oddly poetic in its absolute, nonsensical hybridity. And boy, does it succeed in that.


  1. Rofl. Too random! Will check it out sometime.

    1. Great! I hope you do. Thanks for reading. :)

  2. This sounds awesome. I must track it down. Amazon, here I come!