Saturday, June 11, 2011


Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Kumiko Ohba, Yoko Minamida, Ai Matsubara, Miki Jinbo, Masayo Miyako, Mieko Sato, Eriko Tanaka

I had the good fortune to see this FUCKING INSANE film in the theatre earlier this summer, which is where it belongs. Though I doubt Janus will do another theatrical release soon, its sister company Criterion is giving the film the treatment it deserves: a restored DVD and Blu-ray release October 26th, complete with a documentary and new subtitles. So after you read my review and want to go gaga for Hausu (House), you will only have to wait a few short months to do so.

Pretty, spoiled high-schooler Gorgeous rebels when her father announces he will remarry and that his fiancee is coming on summer vacation with them. Instead, she rounds up six of her best friends, all nicknamed for personality attributes, and they head to visit Auntie, her dead mother's sister she has been out of touch with for over a decade. Things go from strange to worse when they arrive at Auntie's creepy house in the middle of the woods and it turns out that Auntie has become a demon who, in cahoots with her house and her crazy cat, feeds on the souls of virgins. Bad choice for a summer vacation.

Hausu is insane and wonderful and everything I hoped it would be. I've heard it described as a Scooby Doo episode directed by Dario Argento, a psychedelic, Japanese Evil Dead II, and as an avant-garde ghost story. All of these things are true, but none of them really prepares you for the full insanity of Hausu. It is funny, both purposefully and unintentionally, gory, charming, psychedelic, and crazed. For the time, the effects are impressive and the film comes across as a sort of live action anime, regularly bending the rules of time, space, and narrative filmmaking with aplomb.

It comes very highly recommended, though I'm sure there are people out there not prepared for this level of insanity. I felt like I was high when I left the theater, but immediately wanted to see it again. Buy or rent the Criterion release when it comes out in October and check out the trailer on their page. Considering it comes out less than a week before Halloween, it would be a perfect inclusion to any Halloween party. Chances are 95% of your guests have never heard of it and fewer have seen it - whether they love or hate it, I guarantee it will be a film-viewing experience they will never forget.

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