Off-Season Reviews: House (1977)

[It’s amazing what you’ll find when you break down and finally start cleaning out your car. Treasure, you’ll find treasure in the form of hand-written reviews for a website that doesn’t exist anymore; a condition that makes linking to said reviews impossible. So here it is, the first (of two) of my Dead Formats reviews.]

We start[ed] off the Dead Formats [now dead itself] enterprise with Nobuhiku Obayashi’s House. A tender film portraying how life is for pubescent Japanese girls. If you’ve ever wondered how a live-action episode of Scooby-Doo would play out if its writers were on more potent acid, then this film is for you. (If, on the other hand, the Power Rangers are more your juvenile guilty pleasure, you’ll have to wait until I resurrect my Dead Format-written Die You Zombie Bastards! review.) Naturally, as with all films of this type, it has a bumbling, hunky, love interest (okay, his haircut screams “hunky” even if his acting doesn’t), the bittersweet memory of a mother taken from her family too soon, and a giant painting of a white cat that floods an entire house with blood! (What can I say? Not all coming of age tales are subtle…)

Now I know what you’re thinking, Hey there Mr. English major, not all of us are hip to metaphors and symbolisms. Can’t a painting of a giant, blood-spewing cat just be a giant, blood-spewing cat painting? Does everything have to be about menstruation?

Fair enough, your mind is sharp, though your Freudian paraphrasing might need a little work. For those of you who are less scholastic, director Obayashi brings an entire bag of 1977’s top editing tricks in along with his script.

WARNING: do not watch House’s first 20 minutes if you’re easily disoriented or on drugs. You will fall out of your chair in an epileptic shock. It’s that chaotic. The upside to Obayashi’s directorial choices? You’ll be laughing so hard at a man with his ass stuck in a bucket being chased up and down the street Benny Hill-style to really care about the dated wipes.

Words can’t describe the visuals the manic editing, combined with some of the strangest, and most evocative, set-pieces ever seen, come together to create. Factor in what’s easily the greatest color-changing rose wallpaper this (secretly) heterosexual reviewer has ever seen, and you have all the trappings for an instant classic. (“Instant,” of course, meaning “actually a forgotten film from the ’70s.”)

House starts with insane visuals to capture your interest, and, once you’re hooked, it slowly stabilizes into a traditional Japanese ghost story. Provided the Japanese ghost stories you heard growing up had pianos eating the pianists. While a William Castle-grade skeleton dances a jig to the tune of the (piped-in) Meow Mix jingle.

And all this before the aforementioned cat painting floods the house with blood! There’s also an old man, the lecherous teacher/creepy love interest/ass-in-bucketer who transforms into a pile of bananas. Yes, a pile of bananas.

Exactly.

So I’ll just do you all a favor and end this “review” right here, so that you can add House into your Netflix queue now.

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