No Sleep October: House (1977)

“House” was put into development because Toho felt coherent movies weren’t selling enough.

Schoolgirls Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Prof (Ai Matubara), Fantasy (Kumiko Oba), Mac (Mieko Sato), Melody (Eriko Tanaka) and Sweet (Masayo Miyako) travel to Gorgeous’ aunt’s country mansion for their school break. Gorgeous hasn’t seen her aunt (Yoko Minamida) since her mother’s untimely death six years before, but is greeted warmly and soon the girls are put to pleasant work, relaxing on their break. One by one, they start to turn up dead.

Imagine watching a live-action “Yellow Submarine,” but with substantial gore and violence. The sheer absurdity of “House” made me fall in love immediately. The special effects are bad, intentionally. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi meant for them to appear as if children drew and produced them and they do. The unrelenting cartoonishness mixed with violence is unique, outstanding, bizarre. It’s like living in a preschooler’s nightmare.

“House” is free-association improvisational horror. Examples: A man can’t find the house, and in frustration exclaims “Bananas! Bananas! Bananas!” The next we see him, he has been turned into a pile of bananas. One of the girls is particularly gifted at piano, and she is eaten by the piano. The girl who likes to eat Ramen is named “Mac,” kind of horrible but befitting the style. The girl who likes kung-fu is named Kung Fu.

Behind it all is a folklore story of a woman whose husband never returned from World War II, and whose response is to stay young forever by devouring young virgins. So she does, killing all of them as well as their families. Naturally the movie ends with a postscript about the eternal nature of love? The message is – well, certainly questionable, but feels appropriate after you’ve spent 90 minutes spreading your imagination across the table in order to fully perceive just what the film is throwing at you.

“House” never slows down, never bores you. There’s something new on the screen — whether it’s a giant evil cat, a ghost, a beheading or simply editing techniques that feel right out of a children’s television show. It is unrelentingly, majestically weird in the most genuine sense.

One of the best I watched all month.


Administrator of Midwest Film Journal. Previously a staff writer for TheFilmYap.com, Evan has been writing film criticism in the Indianapolis area for over half a decade. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He also reviews Oreos.


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