Dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi. Japan. 1977.

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No, this is not a review of a new box set of the Hugh Laurie medical drama but a welcome UK premiere release of the famous Japanese horror spectacular by renowned director Obayashi. A smash hit on its original Japanese release in 1977, the film has garnered a cult audience over the years and been a huge influence on the careers of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, whose calling cards 'Evil Dead' and 'Braindead' respectively.
Inventive with its cinema style, we see the first moment after 35 minutes when we see a close up of a girl closing her eyes, first her left, then her right; the audience then seeing the reverse shot, so we see a girl at a slightly different angle each time is harking back to your school days.  And moments before that we have a girl standing by a well, and the camerea crash zooms as it zooms in the scenery comes closer. I
t is quite startling to see such invention in such a film, whose premise starts off so melodramatically.  A group of girls go to a girl's relatives house in the country during the summer, where upon strange things begin to happen; odd, scary, fantastic, horrific things.
The film does have a feel of taking all the scary moments they could think of and putting it all into one film; an all or nothing approach which can be most closely seen in 'Evil Dead' when it was everything and the kitchen sink at times.

At times both spellbinding, mind-boggling, startling and authentically startling; the influence here on the J-horror genre 'The Ring' and 'Dark Water' as well as strands of Takeshi Miike's oeurve are more thatn apparent.  There are genuine moments of humour, something that would not make something like 'Evil Dead' even plausible if it was not for its sense of humour; that is why the role of Obasan (Yoko Minamida), the Aunty in the film is so important, she is that weird, eccentric character who is allowed to wink at the camera whilst she laughs at the nubile girls as they deal with severed heads, flying body parts and hungry pianos.
That is another influence on the American horror genre so strong and vital in the late 1970s around the same time as House was released is that of the last girl; here with have  group of girls, fighting mystical and mysterious forces and one by one, a girl disappears so therefore we have a precursor to the 'last girl' theory of that American staple, did this film really influence the American horror cinema cycle from 1978-1992, ending in the final part of the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness.
Well worth a watch for all cult fans and Japanese horror fans, and people who like directors who take chances and risks with film stock and breaks boundaries of the film language.

The chapter headings have a wicked sense of humour also:
14. Blimey
15. Indescribable
16. ...!!!
Also available on the DVD are interviews with the director about the genesis of the storyline, the production and release of the picture as well as the abiding legacy of the film.
HAUSU/HOUSE is available now on DVD from Eureka! entertainment

Jamie Garwood

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