BREAKING NEWS JAPANESE SUPER ODDITY HOUSE IS WEIRD!!!
Yes I might be late to the party on this one. And all sarcasm aside, there really is very little to say about House (or Hausu if you’re so pedantically inclined) then “Gee that sure is an odd one alright…”
And I’d be tempted to through House into the pile of “Things to write up on my next set of capsule reviews” if not for the inescapable fact that words fail to capture just how relentlessly weird House really is. House may be little more then a dare. But what a dare. This isn’t a film as much as an assault.
The phrase “cult movie” gets thrown around a lot these days. But to call House merely “weird” or “quirky” is to miss how fiercely dedicated to its own oddness House really is. Try to imagine an episode of Scooby Doo directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky or Eraserhead adapted by The Electric Company and you’re half way there.
The story follows a group of Japanese Schoolgirls who take a vacation at the rambling old home of a classmate’s Aunt. The girls start dying off one by one, due to various spectral mishaps and this doesn’t even begin to convey just how completely crazy House feels. And once again I don’t mean “crazy” like “just wild and trippy”. No. House actually feels as if a crazy person really made it. The rules of narrative and indeed recognizable life are suspended inside the bounds of its runtime not just illogic but anti-logic (and like Lovecraft I’m driven to shudder in abject horror at the thought of those bounds slipping).
Everyone is named after their single definable personality trait. They act with alarming nonchalance about the gruesome on goings, which include floating heads, portals into hell and possessed wood. Their demises are portrayed in surprisingly gruesome gaudy set pieces, the tenor of which make Ultraman look staid. The film occasionally, randomly, reverses and repeats itself. The 180 degree rule is violated with glee. Every now and then things go black and white and slow mo. There are silent films reenactments. Impromptu musical numbers (not counting one where a sapient piano munches on two of the girls) sprout up not once, but twice. One features a singing cat. Everything is perversely jolly.
Even when the film is playing at “normal” it is borderline antagonistic to the viewer. The entirety of it as obviously set bound and as intentionally lit as The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari. There’s no moment to catch one’s breath. Everything is so relentlessly artificial that something fuses in the mind.
I’m kind of baffled as to whether I can in good conscience recommend House. Needless to say it doesn’t work as a regular movie. By creating a heightened reality it creates a removed experience. House feels almost more like an object then a movie. And like one of those strangely over detailed, sublimely nerdy maquettes that your coworker displays in his cubicle it may be tough to think of its purpose but it’s kind of unavoidably appealing to contemplate at all the same.