FREAKSHOW Hausu

Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time features a Japanese girl being chewed up by a piano…

1977
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Kumiko Ohba, Yôko Minamida
Available on region one DVD/Bluray and region two DVD.
Watch the trailer here.

The reaction of one Toho studio suit to Nobuhiko Obayashi’s screenplay for Hausu (aka House) was, “This is the first time I’ve seen such a completely meaningless script!” His head must have exploded when he saw the finished film.

The director had an interesting career path. He began making experimental films, then moved into TV commercials, and brings both of these sensibilities to this category-defying Japanese horror. It follows a schoolgirl as she visits her aunt’s bewitched house in the country, with six friends in tow. “Weird stuff ensues” is the best synopsis we can manage.

The score’s the first thing to bamboozle your senses: jarringly jolly tunes, cartoonish sound effects, sentimental piano melodies, and the musical war crime that is slap bass, layered all over everything so thickly as to be the aural equivalent of dousing a dish of sushi in tomato sauce. But it’s the bewildering array of visual techniques that really fry your brain. Slow-motion, choppy frame rates, Monty Python-esque animation… Dialogues take place in whip-wipes from one character to another. One minute the fake painted backdrops are reminding you of the stylised kitsch of French artists Pierre et Giles; the next there’s some Goodies-style speeded-up slapstick.

The horrific sequences would slot neatly into one of Peter Jackson’s early films: in one, a decapitated head flies about in the air and bites someone on the arse. In another, a girl’s chewed up by a piano. It’s maddeningly incomprehensible, perversely fascinating, and so hyperactively edited that it may cause foaming at the mouth. We try to avoid drug-based similes, but sometimes nothing else will do: if you crashed a teenage girls’ pyjama party after necking some bad acid, this is probably what it’d feel like.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Rat Pfink A Boo Boo four or five times, but never seen On The Waterfront. The weirdo.

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