Hausu (1977)
House (English title)
Screenplay by Chiho Katsura; original story by Chigumi Ohbayashi; directed by Nobuhiko Ohbayashi

My rating: 2 of 5

This little cult classic from Toho Studios almost defies description. On the surface, it’s a fairly routine horror movie about a group of schoolgirls who get trapped in a haunted mansion. But it’s the execution by director Ohbayashi that makes the film my new favorite bad movie.

The story starts innocently enough, with seven girls planning their school break at one of their aunt’s house. The girls are named by their chief characteristics:  Gorgeous (beauty), Fantasy (dreamer),Prof (brains), Kung Fu (fighting), Sweet (kindness), Melody (music), and Mac (short for stomach, or perhaps a reference to a McDonald’s Big Mac, i.e., likes to eat).

The craziness begins in earnest even before the girls reach the house. They stop for directions from a watermelon farmer who is eventually revealed to be more than meets the eye. Once in the house, the creepy wheelchair-bound aunt and her sinister cat project a sense of immediate dread. The girls soon begin to disappear one by one in more and more bizarre manners. But it all has a cartoonish vibe that is purposely meant to be more comical than gruesome (although there is plenty of fake blood and dismembered corpses).

One of the reasons the story seems disjointed is that director Ohbayashi turned to his 10-year-old daughter Chigumi for ideas; enough so for her to receive screen credit. And the movie resembles a manga because Ohbayashi published the story as a manga during the long wait for Toho to greenlight the project.

The special effects were purposely made to look fake, despite being made at the home of the special-effects masters that produced the Godzilla movies. Ohbayashi came from the advertising world and wanted the effects to reflect the childish themes of the story. The editing and cinematography also contribute to the amateurish feel, with jerky jump cuts and psychedelic colors permeating the art direction.

Hausu is an idiosyncratic journey into a warped world that will blow your mind with its outrageousness.


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