If you’re looking for a horror film to watch this Halloween and you’re tired of all the usual stand-bys, may I recommend the 1977 Japanese flick House?
House contains the usual horror tropes: a haunted house, young and nubile girls ready to be served up as supernatural fodder, dark family secrets–but believe me when I say you have never seen a movie like this before because…House is bat-shit crazy!
We all know the Japanese have some odd proclivities, but even by those standards…House is bat-shit crazy! The best way to describe it is: imagine if you were really sick and had a 110 degree fever and you decided to take a lot of strong narcotics to make you feel better before going to sleep and you washed all that down with alcohol and heroin. The ensuing nightmare you would have is basically what House is.
It’s best that I don’t describe too much of what happens in the film because it’s something you really should experience with virgin eyes. But basically, the plot revolves around a young schoolgirl named Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) who, upset that her widowed father is re-marrying, spends the summer at her aunt’s isolated country house with a group of her girlfriends. Gorgeous hasn’t seen her aunt in many years so she doesn’t know what to expect. But of course, her aunt (Yoko Minamida) has secrets of her own. Really dark, fucked up secrets. The girls find themselves trapped in the house and are either killed off one by one or find themselves possessed by something evil.
The way I’ve described the movie makes it sound like a fairly traditional haunted house story, but let me reiterate…House is bat-shit crazy! Again, don’t want to give away too much, but here are just a few of the things you’ll find in the movie: one girl is attacked and eaten by a piano while she’s playing it. One girl, while performing some kung fu move, is possessed by a lighting fixture. At one point, the house itself is flooded by a literal river of blood. And these are the more normal, traditional things that happen in the film. I don’t even know how I’d describe the other bat-shit stuff that occurs.
House was developed by Japan’s famed Toho Studios after the huge success of the American film Jaws and the studio’s desire to make something similar for Japanese audiences (BTW, House is nothing like Jaws). Toho exec Nobuhiko Obayashi and writer Chiho Katsura were tasked with developing the story and House was the result. However, none of the directors Toho approached wanted to make the film for they feared it would ruin their careers because it was, say it with me everyone—bat-shit crazy!
After two years of running into walls, Toho finally allowed Obayashi to direct it himself. The result was a box office smash though the critics hated it. House wasn’t officially released in the United States until 2009 and was hailed as a cult classic. And as bat-shit crazy as House is, it does touch on issues that must’ve resonated with its Japanese audience like its exploration of the toll that World War II took on regular Japanese people.
So if you crave something different for your Halloween movie viewing, give this House a visit. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it—in fact, you’re reaction might very well be, “what the fuck did I just watch?!” But what I can guarantee is you’re likely to have a cinematic experience unlike anything you’ve had before.