Monday, October 7, 2013

House (1977)

Holy. SHIT.

I have no idea what I just watched.

But I kinda want to watch it again.

This is one of the Criterion Collection films on Hulu and I put it in my queue (along with the original Blob, Vampyr, and Fiend Without a Face) to watch this month. I don’t know what I was expecting – something along the lines of the Shochiku horror films I’d watched a bit earlier (The Living Skeleton, Genocide, and  Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell) – but what I got was… crap, I don’t even know how to describe it.

Super-quick plot summary: seven high school girls travel to visit the aunt of one of their number. The aunt’s house is haunted and they’re picked off one by one.

Sounds like a straightforward enough movie, doesn’t it?

And there ARE horrific moments. There’s a severed head that vomits blood. A piano EATS a girl. But the severed head floats around and bites one girl on the butt while saying “Mmmm, tasty.” The girl eaten by the piano is also decapitated and her severed head looks up her own skirt and declares, “That’s my naughty!”

The first 10-15 minutes of the movie was so high school girl drama/comedy that I almost stopped watching. Soft-focus closeups, silly music, drama with a dad’s new fiancé – at times it almost feels like a musical. There’s even a whole sequence with a teacher walking past people working in rhythm to  the music on the soundtrack. (He falls into a bucket that gets stuck to his butt, then hops around on it, then calls the hospital while a little kid plays the bucket like a drum.) 

Is this a comedy? It has to be, right? 

Oh, and there’s a mysterious white cat in there as well, and it appears to be directing some of the action (tripping the teacher, having mail show up late).

Anyway, the girls arrive at the countryside and run into a round little fruit-stand guy. He apparently only sells watermelon, though. He directs the girls to the huge house on the hill and after they leave excitedly exclaims about the mistress being so happy to see them, all while dancing a happy jig.
The aunt greets the girls and the cat turns out to be hers. It’s all very lovely and rustic out in the gardens. Inside is another story, with cobwebs, weird architecture and general haunted house décor. The cat shoots green laser eyes and stuff happens. The aunt has white hair and is in a wheelchair – some of the time.

Despite the obvious creep factor, the girls are all very excited , though nice and polite. They fix dinner and start cleaning the house. They all have nicknames that are related to their personality:

  •  the main character is Gorgeous (it’s her aunt’s house) – she’s appearance focused
  •  then there’s her best friend Fantasy, whose imagination runs away with her a bit
  • Prof is the smart one
  • Mac likes to eat
  • Melody loves music, and the aunt invites her to use the cobwebbed grand piano (while a skeleton dances in the background )
  • Kung Fu does… well, kung fu
  • Sweet is the nicest one. She spends part of the movie washing the floor.

 Mac disappears during dinner (queue more fat jokes) and when Fantasy goes to look for her she finds her severed head in the well (leading to the blood vomiting, flying and butt biting). Nobody believes her, but during dessert the aunt smiles and reveals and eye in her mouth.

Things just get more wacky from there. There are a ton of special effects and they vary from pretty damn good (some great mirror stuff) to crazy bad (the piano eating the girl). It’s non-stop, over the top weirdness. I just kept shaking my head and muttering “what the fu….”

A girl gets killed by pillows and futons (or maybe turned into a doll, it’s not clear). Another gets dissolved in cat blood. There’s a lot more kung fu than I expected. A severed limb kicks a cat painting that explodes, leaving only the image of the cat that then vomits up enough blood to flood the building. People lose parts of their clothes a lot.

Meanwhile, that teacher who had fallen into a bucket is trying to meet up with them. After several random interludes with him he finally arrives at the fruit stand. The proprietor tells him that the girls have all been eaten and then asks if he likes watermelon. The teacher replies. “No, I like bananas.” At this point the fruit stand owner screams and dissolves into a skeleton. The teacher stumbles back to his car muttering about bananas.

When another character arrives later, she finds his car still there, full of bananas.

I don’t, I just… I can’t even…

I went from hating this film, to being totally confused by this film, to finally needing to own this film. It’s SO F’ing CRAZY.

If you get a chance to see it, I recommend it – but know you’re in for a really wild ride.

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