VOD film review: House (1977)
James R | On 31, Oct 2021
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba, Ai Matsubara, Mieko Satô, Eriko Tanaka, Masayo Miyako
Where to watch House (1977) online in the UK: BFI Player (Subscription)
There are scary horror films, funny horror films and horror films that are just plain weird. House, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s haunted house flick from 1977, is defiantly the latter, and its imaginative, inventive and wild creativity will leave your brain reeling for hours.
The film follows Angel (Kimiko Ikegami) – called “Gorgeous” in the US release of the film – who goes on a trip to her aunt’s remote home for the summer. She takes with her six friends, Prof (Ai Matsubara), Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Fantasy (Kumiko Ohba), Melody (Eriko Tanaka), Sweet (Misayo Miyako) and Mac (Mieko Sato). Things start out colourful and chirpy, steeped in bubblegum pop and innocent excitement, with music that comes right out of a kids’ TV show – the fact that the film was hugely influenced by Ôbayashi’s daughter, herself a young teenager, is no coincidence.
In fact, that childlike logic becomes the key driving force behind everything that unfolds, as the initially cheerful vacation descends into increasingly outlandish horror. Emotional trauma and poignant backstories are gradually unpacked, but they’re delivered with the most unexpected and unusual flourishes, from cartoons and flames to floating body parts, all of them assembled with the kind of hyperactive collage you’d expect from a kid who’s been watching 1990s MTV all day. Halfway through, a conversation around the piano sees the camera swing back and forth like a pendulum between each character – it doesn’t ever let that momentum run out.
And so this spooky cabin in the countryside throws out all kinds of strange goings-on, from sentient mirrors and piano keys that are played by severed fingers to a cat whose eyes flash like robotic lasers. It’s like watching The Haunting remade by Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and while the relentless onslaught of rapid editing and supernatural oddities could prove grating for some, it’s dizzying and jaw-dropping to behold in action – a slice of deranged madness that’s unlike any other horror film you’ve ever seen.
House (1977) is available now on BFI Player, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.