Nobuhiko Obayashi‘s legendary haunted house movie, also known as Hausu, was first released in Japan in 1977 and is a Major Cat Movie. Oshare, miffed at her dad for having invited his girlfriend on holiday with them, decides instead to visit her aunt, who lives in a house in the country; she brings six of her classmates along. From the outset, the story devolves into a riot of lurid hues and backdrops, with flashbacks styled like silent movie inserts, a jaunty soundtrack which wouldn’t have been out of place in German softcore porn from the 1970s, and all manner of cut-outs, collages and psychedelic effects.
Of course, once the girls get to their destination, the aunt turns out to have a hidden agenda, and her fluffy white cat, hitherto friendly, starts shooting green lasers from its eyes. One by one, the girls succumb to terrible fates that have to be seen to be believed. One is bitten on the bottom by a severed head, another is eaten by a piano, and the cat turns into an evil cat painting which gushes so much blood that another girl drowns in it.
The gruesome deaths, gushing blood and severed limbs might have been sadistic and unpleasant had they been rendered by realistic-looking modern CGI, but the special effects in Hausu are even more bonkers than the story – lots of crazy zooms, wacky animation and what looks suspiciously as though someone has been scribbling on the film with fluorescent felt-tip pens. Ironically, the crudeness of the effects now makes Hausu now almost seem more like an avant garde experiment than a horror movie. Almost – because (and take note Amer) there is a story here, albeit a barking mad one.
The overall effect is like Suspiria crossed with Tears of the Black Tiger, but stranger and funnier than either. There’s even a bit of gratuitous schoolgirl nudity and panty-sniffing. It’s all so bizarre and stylised that it’s hard to care too much about the characters (probably just as well, since they come to such horrible ends) though I did develop a soft spot for a feisty wench nicknamed “Kung-Fu”.
This is obligatory viewing for lovers of the kitsch, the cool and the crazy, but be warned – don’t watch it under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, or your head could explode.
This is a re-edited version of a DVD review first published on theartsdesk.com
Stay tuned for a mini-Japanese lesson after this poster!
- Ask Chris #128: The Trouble With Demonic Cat Paintings (comicsalliance.com)