Friday, July 6, 2012
Movie Appraisal: Hausu (ハウス) (House) (1977)
No, this movie reminds me of a spoof of a horror movie or possibly even a comedic play on an actually horrific premise. That being said, taking my ranting out of this review for a moment, I loved this movie, absolutely loved this movie. It is the kind of movie that feels like it is custom-made for me through-and-through. I loved the cheesy looking effects, the story, and ridiculous acting. Oh man, when Togo turns into bananas... I don't think I've ever looked so baffled into a screen before, and I loved it.
The premise of the movie is that seven girls go to visit the of of one of the girls, Gorgeous. Each of the girls has a nickname that somewhat describes their character. Gorgeous (played by Kimiko Ikegami) is set to be the main character, but never actually is. Her character is vain and cares about her appearance much more than the other girls. She is somewhat quiet and has some family issues. The reason she and the other girls go to her aunt's house is because she doesn't want to be around her father's new fiancee, her future stepmother. So after the other girls can't go for vacation at Togo's (one of their teachers) sister's house, Gorgeous mentions that they all should go to her aunt's house.
The other girls are then introduced. Fantasy makes up stories and has these weird hallucinatory types of visions at times throughout the movie. She daydreams and becomes a big source of the drama in the film. She keeps seeing the strange things happening in the aunt's mansion, and the other girls simply don't believe her at first. Then there's Kung Fu, who basically becomes the main character for most of the film, being the character who takes care of the other girls, and kicks, slaps, and punches the weird stuff in the house the hell out of her way. Every time she does anything even slightly kung fu related though, there is a ridiculous kung fu movie kind of music that comes up. It's brilliant and campy and I love it.
The rest of the girls are Mac, the heavyset girl (who's not really all that heavyset) who loves eating and disappears early in the movie, Prof, who is the smart one... kind of... Melody, who plays the piano, and is eventually eaten by the piano, and Sweet, who I don't even remember at all beside the fact that she gets ganged up on by a bunch of mattresses for some reason.
The aunt is an older woman in a wheelchair, who also seems to be set-up to be a larger character than she ends up being. She seems like she is going to be some kind of campy villain, and she kind of is, but mostly during the second half of the film she disappears. That being said, when she is onscreen, she frequently breaks the fourth wall, winking at the audience or meeting eyes with the audience. It's well done and pretty cool. I've never really seen something like this implemented in a movie like this, and I really liked it.
The last character is Blanche, who is the white cat who basically is the aunt's portrait of Dorian Gray. I guess it's kind of like a moving spirit or something that keeps her alive beyond death as long as she has unmarried women to kill and eat to be both young and vigorous, waiting for her lost fiance beyond her living limits. Now, Blanche is a white cat, but... somehow, somewhere, the people who made the next poster seemed to think that Blanche was orange.
So, each of the girls are killed one-by-one over the course of the movie, with the bulk of the movie being Kung Fu, Fantasy, and Prof running around the mansion trying to find a way out or trying to avoid death. Mac is the first to die, her head replacing the watermelon she buys the aunt for a gift. Then Sweet is attacked by mattresses and is put into a clock or something and bled out that way. Gorgeous... uh... disappears into a mirror only to come back out of that mirror as the aunt herself... I think? There are some very weird scenes with Gorgeous... so, it's hard to tell what's going on with Gorgeous.
Melody stays with the other girls for a while, but as she plays the piano, her fingers are eaten by the piano... then she is eaten... in the most sexual way... by the piano. And that's another thing, this movie has a bit more nudity and sexuality than I would have thought. Fantasy has romantic daydreams about Togo. Kung Fu is inexplicably naked after she is eaten by a lamp. She also goes most of the movie in her underwear. Melody is basically raped by the piano... or at least that's what it looks like. Sweet's clothes disappear off of her after she is attacked by mattresses. Gorgeous is naked a few times, once in the sauna, and another time later on as she is cradling Fantasy at the end of the film as Fantasy calls her her mother. That was pretty odd as well. Prof has an underwater naked scene as she is engulfed by the bloodwater that comes out of the portrait of Blanche after Kung Fu kicks it with a rocket-launched torso and legs...
I'm going crazy here. So much of this movie is absolutely insane, and I love so much of it. The nakedness I could give or take, but I love the story, the chittering dialogue, the weird scenes that are inserted into the movie and make little to no sense in context, like when Togo turns into bananas and the man he's talking to turns into a skeleton kind of thing.
The last scene in the film is when Gorgeous (who is probably her aunt at this point) taking care of her future stepmother, and that stepmother... every scene she's in she like some kind of old movie star with wind blowing her clothes around, looking like she's the center of attention... It's weird, but Gorgeous kills her because she's unmarried too. It works.
This movie feels like it was made on a lot of drugs, but I love every single part of it. It's weird, with a happy soundtrack, a great comedy-slasher feel to it, and with a good amount of charismatic women acting pretty well despite this being most of their first and only acting roles. I can't call this movie a horror movie... and neither should anybody else. It's a horror movie like The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a horror movie... and that ain't a horror movie. I keep harping on his because the descriptions I see pin this as a horror movie and it so isn't. I mean, I guess it could be well into the B-movie feel of a horror movie, but I've seen so many B-movies from this era and some of them are pretty disturbing and kind of creepy, but this movie is so not creepy and so not scary that I cannot, in good faith, call this movie a horror movie.
Anyway, I loved this movie. It's easily my second favorite movie I've seen so far this summer, the first being Possession. Not everybody will like this movie, but if you like camp, stylized art films masquerading as horror, and weird movies, you should really check this one out.