Bonkers! Bonkers! Bonkers! That’s the only way you can describe this 1977 kitsch Japanese horror fantasy – now a glorious Masters of Cinema DVD release, courtesy of Eureka!
Surreal to the max, House is a deliriously deranged Manga meets the Famous Five mash up, served with classic haunted house scares.
Disheartened by her father re-marrying, pretty school girl Angel decides to spend her summer vacation with a mysterious Auntie living in seclusion in an isolated mansion far away from the city. Along for the Wizard of Oz-style excursion are Melody, Fantasy, Prof, Sweetie, Kung Fu and Mac. Plus, a mysterious cat with sparkling emerald eyes called Snowy.
After meeting Angel’s wheelchair-bound Auntie (quite a looker for her age), it’s not long before the girls’ stay turns into phantasmagorical rollercoaster ride when Auntie is revealed to be a spectre out to cause havoc. And so the fun begins as Mac loses her head in a well; Sweetie battles rampaging futons; Melody gets chomped on by a piano (the music she plays will ring in your ears); Prof disintegrates in a pool of blood; and poor Angel becomes possessed by a mirror of fire.
Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, who cut his teeth on avant-garde filmmaking in the 1960s before finding fame as a director of Japanese TV commercials, including ones with Charles Bronson, House is a wholly visual experience in which Obayashi uses a host of cinematic devices to wield his magic: bizarre wipes, freeze-frames, slow-mo’s, garishly-coloured matt paintings. All manner of techniques are used to give it a colourful comic-book feel. In fact, often I thought a Pierre et Gilles painting had come to life and the film pre-dates most of today’s hyperactive video games.
Absurdly seductive and screamingly inventive, House is the cult classic waiting to be watched again and again. Oh, and the soundtrack is by the same lot (Godiego) who famously wrote the catchy theme to the fab series, Monkey.