All one actually needs to know about the mind-bending motion picture experience that is Nobuhiko Obayashi’s HAUSU (1977) is that its original release tagline was, in reference to its teenage schoolgirl protagonists, “How Seven Beauties Were Eaten!” Re-released 35 years later by Janus Films, modern audiences can now experience the uncategorizable weirdness of this one-of-a-kind Japanese cult classic.
In the most basic sense, HAUSU is the story of a haunted house – and what happens when seven teen girls travel from room to unpredictable room, each step leading them closer to their doom. What is originally intended as a relaxing summer vacation to the lead protagonist’s maternal aunt at her country home unwittingly transforms into an all-out battle against man-eating pianos, blood-spurting cats, and a host of the supernatural. HAUSU is characteristically light on logic, but very heavy on both style and execution. This quality is the source of all of HAUSU's you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it charm. We wouldn't lie about this!
Nobuhiko Obayashi made his feature film debut with HAUSU in 1977; previously, he worked as a television ad wizard and director of commercials (many of which starred Charles Bronson and other latter-day cinema personalities). Translating his short-form ad experience to feature-length genre directing, HAUSU retains the saccharine romanticism characteristic of his commercials. It embraces the obviously faux and two-dimensional nature of a studio set, with no apparent intent to mask the illusion created by narrative. For a first film, it is rich with the director’s personality and (dare I say) absurd vision. There is no political agenda, no subtext, no lofty art house pretensions: just surreal, insane, 70s pop art Japanese filmmaking!
If you have not yet witnessed HAUSU, you owe it to yourself to walk out of the theater speechless. It is nearly impossible to describe this wonderfully inventive motion picture without spoiling any one of the 10,000 surprises it has in store for the first-time viewer. A cult film of this stature only comes around once, maybe twice, in a lifetime. Don’t miss it!
Manohla Dargis, of the New York Times, said of HAUSU:
" Delirious, deranged, gonzo or just gone, baby, gone -- no single adjective or even a pileup does justice to House.”
HAUSU (1977) plays tonight (09/12) and tomorrow (09/13) at Alamo Drafthouse Village and next week (09/19 and 09/20) at Slaughter Lane. Shows begin each night at 7:00 PM. Get your tickets now (or else)!
As a bonus teaser for the this week and next week's upcoming screenings, enjoy this hunky Charles Bronson-starring, Nobuhiko Obayashi-directed commercial, for MANDOM, men’s cologne. (Sam Prime)