"We haven’t had visitors for a long time. I’m sure the lady will be very pleased…"
HAUSU (HOUSE) (1977)
"Hey, let’s drop acid and watch House!” NO. You don’t want to do that…You DO NOT want to do that. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi already did all of the the drugs in the world before directing House in order for you to watch it stone-sober and still feel the whole time like tiny little spiders are scuttling around on your medulla oblongata. Even before the “weird” stuff starts to happen in the movie plot-wise, we’re on a trip full of optically-enhanced skies, sub-Monkees editing and transition effects, hippie-dippy pop songs, and stop motion slapstick. And then a piano eats someone.
I watched House last night sleepily right after having a big plate of ribs, then I fell asleep very soon after it ended. When I woke up this morning, I honestly wasn’t sure whether some of the things in the movie had really happened or if I’d imagined them. Also of note, I watched the movie on a DVD from Netflix…At one point the picture sputtered and then froze, and for a good five seconds I assumed that it was part of the movie. It wasn’t; there must have been some fingerprints on the disc, I had to stop it and start again at beginning of the following chapter to get it going past the part where it froze. But the movie is consistently psychedelic enough that I really didn’t know at first.
A description of the plot cannot do justice to the experience of watching the film, but here goes nothin’: A schoolgirl invites six of her giggliest friends to her ailing aunt’s country house for their summer vacation. Unfortunately the house is haunted by the witchy undead aunt (and her wicked cat familiar), who needs to eat schoolgirl flesh in order to survive as some kind of demonic something-or-other. Who the fuck even knows. All I do know is that watching the movie is like having a nightmare about a Fanta commercial directed by the barely competent lovechild of Mario Bava and Sam Raimi. And then a piano eats someone.
Once when I was little and I had a fever, I had a really stressful dream in which the Sweeney Sisters from Saturday Night Live stalked me around a shopping center near my house, chased me into my favorite book store and started singing at me, which very nearly drove me insane. There is something to be said about the illogical terror of a fever dream as it’s happening, no matter how random and silly the events may seem later in the light of day. The problem I had with House is that, while the events of the film were clearly either directly inspired by or were designed to emulate absurd dreams, I could never get a grip on whether I was supposed to laugh or be scared.
Which…maybe was the point, and who am I to call the movie deficient because of that? You make a strong argument there, I can’t disagree. I just felt a disconnect with the tone that I wasn’t expecting. It’s probably supposed to be a horror-comedy, but for me it wasn’t totally successful under either category.
However, as an undefined work of warped originality, it’s hard to beat. In what other film can horrific dismemberments follow Benny Hill antics follow some uncomfortably voyeuristic schoolgirl nudity…And then a piano eats someone!