By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Nobuhiko Obayashi
STARS Kumiko Ohba, Miki Jinbo
Barely making a ripple when it debuted stateside in 1977, Japan's House (Hausu) required an NYC re-release earlier this year to finally start building momentum for the wide cult following it will eventually enjoy.
A gonzo horror flick that surely must have influenced Sam Raimi as he prepped The Evil Dead, this dizzying extravaganza just released on DVD by Criterion centers on seven school girls (with such character-appropriate names as Gorgeous, Fantasy and Melody) who elect to vacation at a remote residence inhabited by a malevolent matriarch. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi establishes his schizophrenic style from the start, employing everything from speeded-up slapstick sequences to matte shots to bleeding color schemes, but it takes a full half-hour for the house to unleash its horrors. And what a delirious ride it proves to be, with the mansion throwing a demonic cat, a carnivorous piano and much more at our plucky heroines. The seven teens are an ingratiating bunch, though my favorite is the one named Kung Fu energetic and courageous, she's like the missing Spice Girl.
Despite the ceaseless visual assault, the picture does have its slow spots, but any film savvy enough to include a visual shout-out to Denis Gifford's superb book A Pictorial History of Horror Movies gets a hearty recommendation from me.
DVD extras include interviews with Obayashi, Obayashi's daughter Chigumi Obayashi (who as a child provided her pop with many of the film's scenarios), and screenwriter Chiho Katsura; Emotion, Obayashi's 40-minute experimental film from 1966; and a 4-minute discussion with The House of the Devil director (and House fan) Ti West.
(For more new DVD releases suitable for Halloween viewing, see this weeks upcoming View From The Couch column in print and on this website.)