House: Nobuhiko Ohbayashi Japan 1977 (UK 15)
I know it sounds like an oxymoron to say that this is one of the dearest horror films you will ever see, but that about sums it up for me. Make no mistake though; it is a horror film, though admittedly aimed at a young adult audience.
The story revolves around a group of young girls going to stay with one of their aunts. Needless to say the aunt and her house are more than meets the eye and we witness a series of demises nothing short of bizarre. Only a Japanese mind could conjure these. The sight of a girl being eaten by a piano defies description. All the while though, the film maintains a kind of cute innocent quality.
Ohbayashi deals with each situation head on, disregarding the lack of available special effects. The blatant cut and paste work only adds to the movie’s charm. In fact CGI would only ruin it’s fascination
The story behind the film is particularly interesting. In 1977 the Japanese film industry was fighting for survival against the onslaught of Hollywood and television. Many studios had collapsed or were turning to making adult material. The remainder were desperate and prepared to take risks.
Toho studios approached Ohbayashi, itself a radical move as he was not a studio employee, with a view to making a movie in the ‘Jaws’ niche. Ohbayashi had a background in advertising and had no experience of features. His thirteen year old daughter supplied the story and he set about it with youthful enthusiasm. What he produced was a monster hit in Japan that took the West 30 years to discover.
It is his naivety and advertising background that makes the difference. He just simply dipped into his bag of tricks and plastered the movie with all kinds of innovative techniques no sane director would have attempted, many of which have been latterly picked up by western directors.
It carries a melodic air throughout, it never looses its charm however much blood is spilt and it leaves a lingering aftertaste like a good cup of coffee.
This may well be the strangest, most bizarre film you’ll ever see but I think you’ll be enchanted. One of my all time favourites.
Once again, it’s almost impossible to get in the UK, and only then as a region 1. What is wrong with the British distributors?