In House the horror leaps up and bites you in the ass -- literally. It may also literally chop your fingers off, so use House with caution and only after reading the instructions carefully.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
On the box cover, the Criterion Collection tries to prepare viewers for Nobuhiko Obayashi's film by describing it as "a Scooby-Doo episode directed by Mario Bava." I can do better than that. Think instead of Suspiria directed by Sid & Marty Krofft and you get closer to the actuality of House, and I mean that in a "best of both worlds" way. That's not to say I'm the biggest fan of either the Kroffts or Dario Argento, but the work of each has its virtues, and Obayashi's movie will remind those who know of both. For about the first fifteen minutes, however, my reaction was, "What the hell am I watching?" How else can you react to such deliberate cheesiness? I assumed that Obayashi was sending up something, presumably the Japanese teen-girl culture of the Seventies and the sorts of TV shows it favored. But without a firm frame of reference I could just as easily assume that Obayashi is a madman with an idiosyncratically offputting aesthetic sense. In one sense, he is a madman; House was his feature-film debut after a career as a cutting-edge director of commercials. Anywhere on earth, probably, you're playing with fire letting such a person make a feature. But such was Obayashi's reputation, I assume from the trailer, that Japanese audiences were expecting something profoundly weird.