Sunday, October 18, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Hausu

1977, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) -- download

Back to the terrible (not the future), but finally, we get to see the classic Japanese surreal horror movie that is in turns fascinating and so very very terrible. It is your classic movie to be seen in a rep cinema with friends and copious amounts of alcohol.

P.S. I have called it by the Japanese name, but in reality, it is billed as House even in Japan. I just don't want to confuse it with the 1986 movie, which is apparently not a remake.

So, 1970s Japan. The special effects are not so special but the kink we know well is already in place. As are many of the tropes we know well today. Add to that some references to WWII and atomic trauma, and it actually had some current affairs for a bad movie about heads biting bums.

The girls are named Gorgeous, Fantasy, Melody, Kung Fu, Prof, Sweety and Mac, as translated by our subtitles loosely adapting the descriptive names in Japanese. Its school year's end and everyone is planning their summer holidays. Gorgeous is going with her dad to a resort town and most are joining Mr Togo in summer camp. I am never sure if Mr Togo was a teacher or a boyfriend, but whatever he was, it was wildly inappropriate. But Gorgeous's plans are foiled by her dad's new fiance (a new mom he found in Italy) and summer camp being cancelled. All the girls end up going to Gorgeous's Auntie who she hasn't seen since her mother's death.

The psychadelia begins right away. Nobuhiko is having a ball. The travel montages are a mixture of bad backdrop scenes (you know, badly painted canvasses representing the passing countryside) and scenes where we supposed to think its a backdrop, but its an actual painting on the roadside. This is his hint he will be messing with us.

The house is your typical menacing, rundown place on a hill in the countryside which is hard to find until you go the gas station run by the creepy guy. Sorry, I mean watermelon stand run by the creepy guy. Its Japan; they have their spin on the tropes.

Auntie is old and in a wheelchair, but inviting. In traditional fashion the girls dive to help clean house and prepare dinner, as Auntie makes disconcerting references to how tasty the girls look. The first to go is Mac, who is still hungry and goes after the watermelon being kept cool in the well. When Fantasy goes to find her, she gets bitten by Mac's decapitated but still quite ambulatory head, bitten on the ass. But Fantasy sees things so everyone dismisses her.

And then one by one, things go batshit. Sweety is beat up by futons & bedding to be turned into a doll. The girls sniff her panties to confirm its her. Kung Fu defends herself from chopped wood, loses her skirt and spends the rest of the movie running around in only panties. Gorgeous, who if this was an american movie would be the Final Girl, is... well, it involves her aunt's dressing table, mirror and makeup. And a terrible special effect that is her being consumed by ... fire? I have no idea, but she is missing. All the while Auntie has jumped up from her wheelchair and is dancing. And in case we didn't get it, we get a scene of her chowing down on Mac's limbs.

I forgot to mention the white cat that found her way to Gorgeous's bedroom at the beginning, into the train car when the girls were coming to Auntie's home in the country and finally, into Auntie's lap. Nobody ever asks why but guess what? That cat is Evil with green blinking eyes that initiate a lot of the batshit events.

I am not sure now, as I write this, that things were supposed to have a surreal aspect. I think it was more meant to be scary as all hell but the special effects are so terrible, things seem to drug induced to not be way out there.  I get Melody being eaten by a piano, but what is with the psychedelic lit up keys and her chomped off fingers continuing to play?

The thing that surprised me most about this movie was the familiar kink of current Japan fiction. Fan service, ala panty shots galore, is ever present but some "clothes ripped off" nudity was not expected. I get it, 70s horror movies in America were doing it then, having the bad girls murdered while changing or sexing it up, but this is very much the form we see in all the anime and schlock horror movies of today. Just wasn't expecting it to be a thing of the 70s as well.

In the end, this is a very very bad movie but so enjoyable because you are never sure what is intentional or what is just someone's attempt at shock or eeriness. P.S. We never do get to know why Mr Togo, the creepy old guy coming to find them, was meant to do because he gets turned into a bunch of bananas by Creepy Watermelon Guy.