I recently made an impulse decision to buy the Criterion Blu-Ray release of the 1977 Japanese cult classic, House, directed by Nobuhiko Ohbayashi. I have had an interest in watching this "indescribable" little gem for quite some time, but never had the gumption to give it a watch until recently. Having seen this, the best way to describe the onscreen madness is if you put yourself in the imagination of a schizophrenic adolescent with ADHD, who is experimenting with some sort of hallucinogenic substance. Seriously, what the hell did I just watch?
The film follows a school girl and six of her friends as they travel to her aunt's house over summer break. Just to give you a sense of what you are getting into with this beast, here are the characters: Gorgeous, Fantasy, Melody, Mac, Prof, Sweet and Kung Fu. Not so subtle on describing their personality types...you could probably imagine they will be forced into situations that pit them against those particular personality tropes, and you would be correct. These innocent, naive girls are forced to deal with a demonic cat, floating heads, a killer piano, evil ghosts, and situations I cannot begin to describe.
The film has a whimsical tone, accentuated by an upbeat musical score. There is also a hauntingly beautiful piano melody that pops in frequently. It reminds me of a bedtime lullaby, ushering you into a fevered dreamworld of the insane. The music really adds to the the stylized art direction, which in my opinion is beautifully ludicrous. Mattes are primarily used for backgrounds, giving the film a surreal quality, adding to the overall dreamlike effect. Scenes are also edited using every trick in the book, creating a sense of unease and frantic disorientation. It is almost like a live-action, art house cartoon.
This is easily the most unique film I've ever had the privilege to watch. Do not expect a casual viewing experience. Expect to be challenged by ridiculous visual stimuli and incomprehensible scenarios. If the purpose of this film was to make the most batshit crazy, adrenaline-fueled, acid trip induced horror-comedy, then mission successful. Is anything real? Or are the massive amounts of symbolism coming from an unstable or curious mind. Without a doubt, there is more going with this film than just crazy shenanigans. You can choose to delve into this as deep as you want. One thing is for sure though, House is a must see for any film buff. Missing out on this zany masterpiece is a violation of a curious and inquisitive imagination.