Criterion’s latest find will confound many. It’s even a bit too strange for lovers of cult cinema. “House” is a 1977 Japanese film about seven girls who go on a trip to visit one of the girls aunts. She lives in a big house with a cat. The girls are all named after character traits. There’s Gorgeous, Fantasy, Mack (short for Stomach), Prof., Kung Fu, Melody, and Sweet. The film goes from style to style very quicky. One minute we see a bubble gum music number, then another it’s almost slapstick, then another it’s a mystery/horror film. So what is one to make of it?
Gorgeous comes home from school one day and finds her father who has returned from his trip a day early. He had been working on a film and he brought home a woman that he intends to marry. This does not sit well with Gorgeous who contacts her aunt and asks if she and her friends can come visit. The aunt says she’s been waiting years for Gorgeous to be in contact. The girls make the trip to the aunt’s place and mysterious things start to happen. First Mack disappears. Only Fantasy recognizes something is up but Fantasy is a daydreamer and the other girls think it’s all in her head. Then Sweet disappears and then while playing the piano Melody thinks her finger was bitten by it? Bitten by a piano? Yes, this film is weird to say the least.
The film gets really good as it gets going but it’s an awkward film to say the least and one which lurches from tone to tone very rapidly. It’s a strange film and one in which Criterion declares to be a major find that has never been released on home video in the US. Well, just because it’s never been released and is an oddity doesn’t make it a good film. On the other hand, it is something many have not seen before and ends strong. It’s almost like a blend of “The Evil Dead” meets Takeshi Miike’s “Happiness of the Katikuri’s” meets a silly teen comedy of the 70’s. Needless to say general audiences will not take to this very well. It’s really hard to say just who the audience to this may be. It’s not gory enough for gore hounds. It’s not funny enough for comedy fans. It just seems to be something for those who want to see something, well, different. It is hard imagining this being a new midnight sensation or even a major find like Criterion trumpets.
Bottom Line: This movie will draw art house fans because the solid Criterion has released it but I don’t see people loving this or going back to it. It’s definitely a curio but it’s jumping from genre to genre will wear some out. Not funny enough for comedy fans, not scary or gory enough for horror fans, and just generally too weird to be satisfying. All of the genres stuffed into one film makes it interesting for awhile and it ends very well so it’s not a bad movie, just a strange one.
“House” (1977) is available on the criterion collection on dvd and blu-ray at local retail stores and online outlets.
**Criterion’s “House” bears no resemblance to the William Katt horror comedies of the 80’s or to Fox’s popular tv show.