House (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977, Japan)

Hausu

House
 is a bizarre Japanese curio - Scooby Doo on acid. Made by director Nobuhiko Obayashi, who previously had experience in experimental films and advertising, the film was legendary Japanese film studio Toho's response to the international success of Jaws. There is a childish quality to the film, and the film was in fact written in consultation with Obayashi's young daughter Chigumi, who receives an "original story" credit on the film. While the film was a financial success in its native Japan, it was met with a more negative reception by critics. It did not reach the United States until 2009, when it was released by Janus Films on the arthouse circuit. 
    The film tells the story of a group of schoolgirls who travel to an aunts' country house that turns out to be haunted. Each of the girls has a unique characteristic which defines them, like the Seven Dwarves. While the film is wacky from the start, it really becomes crazy in the last half hour. While the story is bare bones, the film itself is relentlessly inventive. Obayashi uses a new technique in nearly every scene of the film, from animation, to blue screens, to hybrids of animation and live action. 
    While there is a silliness to the film, it most certainly is not for kids, as the level of blood and gore in the finale is quite intense. And this silliness reflects a deeper theme beneath the surface of the film. We learn that the aunt lost her husband in World War II, and her despair is the specter which haunts the house. She represents this generation of widowed women, while the girls represent the generation who have come of age after the war. At one point there is a flashback, and one of the girls looks at the cloud of a nuclear bomb and comments that it looks like cotton candy.

8/10

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