House (1977)

Forgotten DVDs


26 October 2019| No Comments on House (1977)     by Sean Chavel


Social critic James Baldwin once said, that even when you had a soft spot for a movie’s message, all movies when it comes down to it are a narcotic to numb out the true reality of our everyday existence (and that’s how government oppression has worked so well in various societies, the lowly rungs of people will work for rich people as long as they are served tonics in some form or another to keep complacency, but that’s another story). I do not suppose Baldwin was thinking of bizarre camp horror movies when he wrote his dissertation, but I’ll call it out right now: House (1977, Japan) isn’t your average movie, it is a narcotic.

The 1977 Japanese “House” is a crazy surrealist horror film from another dimension, one that only vaguely resembles ours. It makes the bonkers 1975 Hong Kong action movie “Infra-Man” about scientists teaming up with superheroes so they can defeat octopus men and beetle men as well as evil programmed robots and a flame-throwing lizard — look tame in comparison. If you haven’t seen neither one, well, you know what your next plans for Halloween should be.

A high school girl named Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) disapproves of her father’s new fiancé, and on that note, decides to sweep her six friends to her auntie’s house for the rest of summer (the film I swear never comments on the father again). The film is a stunning piece of phantasmagoric technical achievement, except when the girls go sauntering through the woods and onto a bridge (twenty minutes in), director Nobuhiko Obayashi uses old-fashioned iris shots to introduce us fully to the characters — and has trouble keeping the actresses faces in the center of the frame. Their names? Prof, Melody, Mac, Fantasy, Kung Fu and Sweet.

I love it that while they cavort to auntie’s house the music sounds like gentle chords out of a Studio Ghibli movie. When the movie is at its most hunky-dory, it’s dorkily enchanting!

Yeah, by the way, prescribing movies strictly in terms of social values, moral responsibility and sexism, I have for years hated the critical term “the male gaze,” i.e., which is to me reductive, but it’s the idea that feminine subjects are undermined to serve the male viewer’s ego, to salivate upon. Aren’t all movies, for either sex, meant for our collective gaze because movies are a voyeuristic medium for all? That said, I will heartily accept “the male gaze” being applied here, which I’m for, and that’s because I thoroughly enjoyed looking at Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo) in her short shorts pajamas while she performed combat against a possessed house that featured a voracious piano that eats people, that spewed evil spirits and blood, flung window panes and floorboards, levitated decapitated heads, surged flooding water in a whirligig room and projected viscera from every house orifice. Kung Fu looks really hot battling the unknown. I also enjoyed gazing at Gorgeous and she looked for her own sanity in the mirror.

So is it terrifying? I think it only would be to the young and unaffiliated with surrealism or absurdism. For those who are literate in Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, J.G. Ballard and Lewis Carroll, Terry Gilliam and Sam Raimi, “Eraserhead” and “Santa Sangre,” “Audition” and “The Shining,” then you’d be aware that, while intense, it should be much more judged as so very outrageous, so outlandish, so very much a sensory explosion visual and aural, and all very hilarious for it (the right attitude would be to giggle through it).

Yeah, if “Eraserhead” and “Zardoz” are the two weirdest movies I’ve ever seen (I heartily recommend the former, not the latter), then “House” is the third weirdest. Nah, chuck that. This might very possibly be the weirdest film I’ve ever seen. It puts your head in a very strange place and elicits your jollies in ways you hadn’t thought were possible. When something “normal” transpired for thirty seconds (a rarity), I couldn’t wait for something quixotic and berserk to happen next.

Also, I’m looking at the results in every scene and every actress looked like they had fun making it. Exploitation, it is. But there’s no humiliation, or deriding, or belittling of any such person here. Just jolly catastrophe and anarchy and happy carnage. Bring over persons to watch that have a whacked sense of humor.

98 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Zardoz” (1974); “Amityville Horror” (1979); “The Shining” (1980); “House” (1986).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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