Hausu is one of the weirdest pieces of film art that you have to see to believe it and then love it.
Hausu is a very weird Japanese fantasy horror comedy slasher fairytale that is highly experimental in every which way possible. It’s an experimental cult classic you have to at least seen once in your life to enrich your flavor in horror movies.
With a typical seventies style and vibe, the strangest cinematography and techniques and an even weirder story that is as funny as it is scary, it conjures up one of the most offbeat and original and creative films that hit the screen. But it’s also very entertaining and combines Japanese supernatural mythology with its horrifying past. With a House as the main and evil character.
Gorgeous and her friends Sweet, Melody, Kung Fu, Prof, Mac and Fantasy are going to spend the summer holidays with her aunt Karei Hausu in the countryside. Her aunt is a recluse and lives in the mountains with only her cat Snowy as company. She seems glad to see the girls and they are all having a great time, till one of the girls disappears and something seems terribly wrong with the house.
Why you should watch it
First of all the film is very remarkable due to its special effects. Different techniques are used to create a unique style and atmosphere and the craziest effects. It’s a motley crew of all sorts of weird effects like cartoonish drawings, surreal effects and much more that together create something you probably have never seen before in a film. It creates a surreal and eerie vibe, but also a very comical vibe.
The girls are exactly what they are called. They each represent a stereotype which leads to a diverse group of friends. A pretty one, one with a lot of imagination. One that loves music, one that is smart and one who loves to eat and one who can fight really well. And one who is just the sweetest thing. That alone sets the tone of the film. Don’t take it too seriously, but you will have some serious horror fun! Especially when they are each killed one by one according their names, thus their talent, character, appearance or flaw.
The film is highly imaginative. Like when Prof closes one eye we see it from that eye’s perspective and when she opens it and closes the other, the perspective shifts to the left or right eye depending on which eye she closes. Or when Gorgeous is telling about her aunt and mother her story is shown in black and white and it almost gives the impression that the girls are watching a screen on which this story is shown. The green twinkle in the eyes of Snowy, the cartoonish icons like lightning bolts or stars and even body parts that float through the air.
It’s absurd, it’s fantastical, it’s comical, it’s scary and weird and very original, creative, imaginative and surreal. Almost childlike sometimes. Which is not that strange when you consider that Nobuhiko Ôbayashi let his teenage daughter Chigumi come up with some creative scenes in the film. Add to this that most of the girls were models who once worked with Ôbabyashi when he directed commercials and it’s no wonder that in all aspects this film is oddball fun.
But you almost forget that the story is a great one too. It’s basically a simple storyline. Seven girls go to an aunt they haven’t seen in years and then it appears that the house is haunted or maybe better said, it’s alive! And it’s hungry! That leads to a couple of fantastical scenes in which the girls get ‘eaten’ up by the house in the most weirdest and creative ways. A well is very hungry and a mirror seems to be haunted, the grandfather’s clock is very hostile, the piano bites and the mattresses aren’t for sleeping.
It’s all very seventies. The style, the music that is constantly present, the humor that is very slapstick, chaotic, a little cheesy and very campy. Their teacher Tôgô who was supposed to accompany them spends the whole film trying to get to the house and he ends up in the most comical situations. It has no function and why he has to go with them is also a big question, but hilarious it certainly is. The set design, the soft colors and the popping colors of the graphical icons, the clearly painted background decor, the house itself, it’s all well-crafted and excellently executed. And so much fun.
But underneath it also has some social commentary about the second world war, seen from Auntie’s perspective. It’s intertwined with the supernatural and the Japanese mythical folklore but with an original twist. This gives somewhat more body to the story, explaining the evilness of the house and more about Auntie herself. Both can be overlooked but play an important part in the story and even the house itself is a main character that acts as the masked killer, using all of its furniture to kill off the girls one by one, with a malicious reason.
My favorite part
I loved everything about this film. It’s fun, entertaining, weird, arty bizarro land and even a bit scary sometimes in its own unique way. And you can’t ignore the cat in the room with its snow white hair and green eyes, watching the girls like its prey. But the piano attack is crazy as hell and too absurd to be true, and the blood gushing out of the walls filling the room is a strong competitor of Evil Dead II (1987). Everything is so extreme but also extremely funny and weird without becoming lame or too far fetched or cheesy. It’s brilliant and it’s a unique film that won’t be outdone anytime soon.
Surreal factor: ★★★★★
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
Hausu is directed and written by Nobuhiko Ôbabyashi and cowritten by Chigumi Ôbayashi and screenplay by Chiho Katsura. It stars Kimiko Ikegami (Gorgeous), Miki Jinbo (Kung Fu), Ai Matsubara (Prof), Kumiko Ohba (Fantasy), Mieko Satô (Mac), Eriko Tanaka (Melody), Masayo Miyako (Sweet), Yôko Minamida (Auntie Karie Hausu) and Kiyohiko Ozaki (Tôgô).
Duration: 88 minutes. Music: Asei Kobayashi, Mickie Yoshino. Cinematography: Yoshitaka Sakamoto. Edited by: Nobuo Ogawa. Produced by: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, Yorihiko Yamada. Production company: Toho. Distributed by: Toho.