Friday, August 28, 2015

Hausu (House) (1977)

Directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi. You know what's weird? I mean other than "Hausu," director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's surreal 1977 masterpiece about seven girls trapped in a haunted mansion, which yes, is super weird. However, what's also weird is that the film feels like a sophisticated response to Sam Raimi's seminal 1981 U.S. horror classic, "The Evil Dead." But "Hausu" pre-dates Raimi's flick by almost four years, making "The Evil Dead" more like a dumbed-down, Americanized version of "Hausu."

And maybe that's not so weird. First, it's not like "Hausu" is without antecedent. It's pretty clear Ôbayashi had seen a bunch of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, et al. Also, it's not better in all ways than "The Evil Dead." The tremendous strength of "Hausu" is that surge of energy you always feel from something expressed in film that's so different, you've never seen anything like it before. But like a sugar rush, there can be a limit when you just want to lie down and close your eyes. "OK, I get it, everything's all weird and fucked up."

The young girls in this movie seem to represent the so-called seven deadly sins. Themes in the film include sexual maturity and female gender identity, and it may or may not be a cautionary tale about reconciling one's past relationships as the way to a happier present. This is all communicated through a wildly messed up series of tropes from horror, thrillers, comedy and melodrama. Motifs include fruit, water and shit blowing around the room. Colors are unpredictable.

In contrast, the characters, settings, and the scares in "The Evil Dead" have become so familiar as the basic beats and techniques of horror that to see that movie now is almost comforting -- like eating a big ol' bowl of macaroni and cheese. But just like eating a bucket of comfort food, there is that moment when you think, "OK, I've been here, I know what this is like. Enough."

"Hausu," recommended. As well as "The Evil Dead."

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