Foreign Film Friday: ‘House’ (1977)

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House” is the second full-length film from the mind of Nobuhiko Obayashi, who was known for his film experimentation—and for good reason because “House” is no exception. The movie feels like a fever dream. Making its way into the Japanese market in 1977, it was never released in the U.S. However, through the power of the internet and streaming, it has become a cult classic.

The film only has an 88-minute running time, so its pacing is very quick. Without much introduction to the characters, you are thrusted into the action and it does not disappoint. It begins with four girls (with the same blissful ignorance as any victim in an American slasher film from the ‘80s) starting summer vacation who decide to visit the one girl’s (Gorgeous) aunt’s house in the forest. When they arrive at the house, it becomes a beautiful nightmare.

The scenery is fantastic, accompanied perfectly by the cinematography. I had never heard of the film’s cinematographer Yoshitaka Sakamoto, but after this it makes me want to take a deeper dive into his filmography. The way the film uses animation, colors and distortion of color is wholly unique to me. The only other film I can think of that uses similar techniques is Takashi Miike’s 2001 comedy-horror “The Happiness of Katakuris,” which I presume pulled a lot of influence from “House.”

The direction is also worthy of praise, too, with a lot of stylistic choices that were questionable, but I think ultimately panned out. To say the least, without the style choices, I do not think the film would be the classic it is. It also has likeable and funny characters (both side and main). The score can create tension without even being what you would typically think to be creepy or scary music. All these things also help to create the ongoing eeriness that is continuous throughout.

Scene from “House” (1977)

Obayashi’s use of symbolism is creative and prominent in the film. I will not and should not further elaborate on this either, but it’s just important to note and pay attention to.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film, its funny and creepy and EXTREMELY unique. Definitely worth a watch, I give four out of five stars.

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