Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hausu (1977)

Hausu (the English translation is House, and that’s what the logo of the film says complete with the “O” forming a mouth that eats a person – but I’ll get to that) is a Japanese movie made in the late 70’s. This is certainly a unique film, very psychedelically 70’s with a lot of quirky, artsy camera ticks like freezing half the frame, superimposing images over frames, cutting out the image of an actor and replacing the silhouette with fire – it’s quite the head trip at times.

A decapitated head bites Fantasy's arse in Hausu.

The film starts out introducing the teenage female characters of the movie in a very idealized, sickeningly sweet girly environment of giggling lasses jumping up and down declaring their undying friendship to each other in blindingly colourful, sometimes beautiful backdrops depicting their high school and the main girl’s veranda overlooking a forest that seems to be perpetually at dusk. There’s Gorgeous, the main girl who was going to have a trip with her father for the Summer holidays until the father brings home a girlfriend and declares that she will be Gorgeous’ new mother, eight years after Gorgeous’ biological mother has passed. Gorgeous hates this idea and writes to her long lost aunt that she wants to stay with her for the Summer and see the village her mother grew up in. The aunt agrees, and after Gorgeous’ friends plans have been ruined for the Summer, Gorgeous invites them along too. Like Gorgeous, her friends are all named after their character traits: there’s Fantasy who likes to daydream a lot and take pictures; Kung Fu the tough, sporty one; Prof, the smart one; Mac, the one who loves to eat; Sweet, who loves to clean; and Melody who loves music. They make their way to the old mansion in the middle of nowhere where they find Gorgeous’ Aunt. And, one by one the girls meet an untimely fate as they disappear. You see, Gorgeous’ Aunt has been dead for several years and, along with the haunted house, eats unmarried girls to revitalize her strength.

Gorgeous' Aunt has her eye on you.

As I said before, this is quite a unique, strange movie and is definitely worth a look. The visuals are amazing, and for all of its unique flavour I was reminded of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in its need to develop its own reality coloured by cartoonish, surreal visuals. I’m not sure if the goal was to depict the goings on of a teenage girl’s mind, but whatever it was it makes the movie very memorable. Gorgeous’ father’s girlfriend is so sickeningly serene, highlighted by a wind machine that blows her lovely hair and white scarf around, that you almost hate her as much as Gorgeous does. And all of the lighting really picks up the dreamlike state of this movie. I liked the uniqueness of the killings, although they’re underpinned by the film’s lack of seriousness. One girl is decapitated (sounds usual for a horror movie), but then another is attacked by mattresses, one is eaten by a piano (first the fingers, then arms, then the whole body – yeah, you have to see that one for yourself), one is mangled in the gears of a giant clock, one is attacked by her glasses, and one poor dude gets turned into his weight in bananas. All of the killings in the film are strange and different, and get more and more odd as the film progresses leading to a true pessimistic horror ending. And the music is amazing! Very 70’s and funky.

Dare you enter?

I really liked this movie. I love that it opens with such a saccharin sweet introduction that makes you question if this is a horror movie at all, then gets weirder and more surreal as it gets going. And I love that the girl who is set up as the main girl does not follow the usual horror heroine formula (she’s not exactly the “final girl” who escapes everything unscathed). Hausu is inventive, creative, vibrant and is a true gem in cult cinema.



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