Fantastic Fest: House

This is your brain. This is your brain on House

Fantastic Fest: House

Part of the appeal of Japanese cinema to the occidental audience is that it is a little more likely to catch a viewer jaded by Western conventions off guard. And then there's House.

The last film to see the inside of a US cinema that made this little sense was probably Transformers 2. Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 oddity has previously never escaped Japan, and there are probably good reasons for that: Not least that it's completely insane, borderline incoherent, and shot with so much visual panache and mid-70s excess that it comes off like Ringu on a Pixy Stix-fueled hug-a-thon.

It's in many ways a fairly conventional Japanese supernatural horror film. Seven schoolgirls travel to visit an infirm old aunt and start getting picked off, one-by-one, by the occult forces that lurk in her home. But Obayashi abandons any pretense of horror, instead shooting in a neon palate and day-glo mindset that may have inspired such more recent oddities as Happiness of the Katakuris or Big Man Japan.

It's hard to tell whether this film should sit alongside a cult disaster like Troll 2 or a counter-culture experiment like The Final Programme. In fact, there's surprisingly little to recommend House as a film. But as an experience, well, that's a whole other story. It's not incompetently made like so many other epicly bad movies: Obayashi's long career as an art film and TV commercial director has proved that he is more than technically adept (hell, the man got Kirk Douglas to schill coffee granules). There are even scenes that look like outtakes from a '70s perfume ad, all soft focus and wind-swept hair and characters looking off into the middle distance.

Then someone gets eaten by a piano.

If it wasn't for the fact that seemingly bad ideas were deliberate conceit, this would all just look like a blunder. But when he puts a backdrop canvas of mountains in an empty field, or has severed legs kung-fu kick a wallpaper cat, it's just a brain-rattling delight.

House screens Oct. 1, 1.30pm. Turn up early to see a selection of Obayashi's commercials.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Fantastic Fest
They're Here! Fantastic Fest Wave One Arrives
First Fantastic Fest 2018 Titles
Overlord, Apostle headline fest opening salvo

Richard Whittaker, July 31, 2018

Exploring <i>The Endless</i> With Benson and Moorhead
Exploring The Endless With Benson and Moorhead
Filmmakers talk science, magic, and bickering brothers

Richard Whittaker, April 20, 2018

More Fantastic Fest 2009
Fantastic Fest: 'Fireball'
Fantastic Fest: 'Fireball'
Basketball, Muay Thai style

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 1, 2009

Fantastic Fest: 'Fish Story'
Fantastic Fest: 'Fish Story'
J-horror director Nakimura goes punk

Marc Savlov, Oct. 1, 2009

More by Richard Whittaker
How to Attend the Sundance Film Festival's Screenings at AFS
How to Attend the Sundance Film Festival's Screenings at AFS
indie film showcase brings this year's hottest titles to AFS's new drive-in screen

Jan. 22, 2021

PG: Psycho Goreman
Splattertastic creature feature flips the evil script on Power Rangers goody-goodies

Jan. 22, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Fantastic Fest, Fantastic Fest 2009, House, Hausu, Nobuhiko Obayashi

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle