House (Hausu) 1977, What was that about?
The fairy tale plot of House
On paper, House (Hausu) appears to be a pure horror fairy-tale by Nobuhiko Obayashi. Obayashi’s tale begins with Angel (nicknamed Gorgeous), a cute Japanese schoolgirl who lost her mother many years earlier. She is close to her father until he surprises her with his new wife-to-be. Gorgeous is angry at this announcement and contacts her aunt who she has not seen since her mother’s passing. The ailing aunt agrees to allow her and her six friends to visit her country home. All girls, much like Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs, have nicknames fitting their personalities.
With this said, the seven, Gorgeous, Sweet, Kung Fu, Prof, Melody, Fantasy, and Mac (short for Stomach), all travel to the country home. On arrival, the house appears too large for her feeble, white-haired aunt to manage. However, things are not as they seem. There are strange happenings that, at first, only Fantasy can see. Slowly girls begin to disappear, and the aunt grows stronger and creepier.
That is on paper. However, the writer\director Obayashi’s vision and execution are so much more. The film is beautiful, cartoonish, absurd, and often comedic. It is the Evil Dead meets the Wizard of Oz blended into a highly bizarre cinema. Obayashi does not seem to be concerned about making you afraid. Instead, he takes a comedic approach to his story.
Initially, Toho studios were looking for a Jaws-like film. Obayashi understood that an adult would use a bear instead of a shark. He did not want this, so he wrote the script with his young daughter. There is a minimal resemblance to Jaws, except for a hungry piano and a butt biting severed head.
The film uses every available camera trick. Obayashi was a commercial director familiar with special effects and over the top Japanese comedy. He uses his knowledge of special effects but intentionally made certain things unrealistic (dancing skeletons in the background). He wanted a child’s vision of horror to show through in the film.
Should You Watch?
Putting House into words is difficult. However, as I watch–no, experience it, I search for a deeper meaning. It is there. It hides in the surreal. The film will not appeal to everyone. If you are a cult fan or enjoy the bizarre, you have to watch House (Hausu). If you watch and wonder what it all means, watch this clip. It is the best explanation that I have found.