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House (The Criterion Collection)

4 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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(Oct 26, 2010)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie HOUSE (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via a series of mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equal parts absurd and nightmarish, HOUSE might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.

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Infamous Japanese whatsit House is the ultimate 1970s artifact. The animated opening recalls The Rocky Horror Picture Show, while former ad man Nobuhiko Obayashi extends the anything-goes impression through freeze frames, painted backdrops, and old-timey flashbacks. He starts by introducing schoolgirls Fantasy (Kumiko Ohba) and Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) to groovy H.R. Pufnstuf-style music. Then Gorgeous's widowed father presents his new bride, Ryôko (Haruko Wanibuchi), who enters like Joan Crawford in a flowing white gown. Afterward, Gorgeous invites Fantasy, Melody, Kung Fu, Prof, Sweet, and Mac to her aunt's house for the summer. Little does she know that Ryôko plans to crash the party.

While they gather at the train station, the film slips into slapstick Monkees territory: a shoemaker croons as Fantasy's crush object, Mr. Tôgô (Kiyohiko Ozaki), trips over Gorgeous's green-eyed cat, Blanche. The girls make it to the country without incident, but the moment they arrive at the cobweb-covered estate, freaky things start happening: Auntie (Yôko Minamida) and Blanche, for instance, have met before. The ladies delight in the weirdness, enjoying a meal and exploring the grounds, but then Mac disappears. Auntie and Blanche, meanwhile, find novel ways to entertain themselves. Soon, mirrors are cracking, mattresses are flying, blood is flowing, and a piano goes berserk. There's only so much the girls can do, so they pin their hopes on Tôgô--and his sideburns--to set things right.

House arrives for the first time in the United States with a testimonial from House of the Devil director Ti West, who declares it "one of the most original films I've ever seen"; Emotion, an experimental short; and a featurette in which Obayashi credits his daughter, Chigumi, for several plot points. Fans of Carrie, Suspiria, The Evil Dead, and Pee-Wee's Playhouse: meet your new cinematic obsession. --Kathleen C. Fennessy


Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Constructing a House, a new video piece with director Nobuhiko Obayashi
  • Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
  • New video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by Chuck Stephens

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Kimiko Ikegami, Kumiko Ohba, Yoko Minamida
    • Directors: Nobuhiko Obayashi
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
    • Language: Japanese
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated:
      NR
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
    • DVD Release Date: October 26, 2010
    • Run Time: 88 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B003WKL6XA
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,756 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "House (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: DVD
    Criterion is a great company -- arguably, the best DVD releasing company in the world. They are known for standards of excellence that aren't traditionally seen in most other companies' releases; not only in their DVD transfers and special features, but for the consistent high quality of the films they release. Most of the films Criterion release are already well-established, traditional, "classic" films. So, it's always nice to see a somewhat more "obscure" film get the Criterion treatment -- this film definitely deserves it.

    While not completely "obscure" -- it's quite well-known in Japan, as well as amongst underground horror and experimental film lovers around the world -- it certainly doesn't seem as, dare I say, "important" as many other Criterion releases. But being the underdog works here, since the film only costs $26 brand new (well below most "big" Criterion film's releases) so it will hopefully motivate more people to check out this work of art.

    ...YES, a work of art. While touted as a "horror" film, this most resembles an art film, one of the more experimental variety, and it is masterfully-shot and -directed. Utilizing all sorts of outrageous effects and downright bizarre editing, this often brings to mind directors like Shuji Terayama (Emperor Tomato Ketchup) and Toshio Matsumoto (Funeral Procession of Roses). While there are some more straightforward "horror" elements -- skeletons, an evil kitty -- most of them are downright silly, and remind me somewhat of American "classic" b-movie cheesefest Spookies than any serious work of horror. It is NEVER scary, and gets by mainly on absurdity and cheese.

    So, why is this film getting 5 stars? Why is it "worthy" of a Criterion release?
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    5 Comments 64 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    Every once in a while you read about a film that it's indescribable and like nothing you've ever seen before. Usually that's hyperbole; it's just a bit offbeat. Not in this case. House (made in 1977) is genuinely like no other film I'd ever seen before, and I loved every minute. The closest in vibe to this film that I've seen is Funky Forest: The First Contact - but that one's all over the place, and lacks the continuity of a single strange story like House. It's surreal horror, a hallucinatory and often hilarious supernatural thriller about Japanese schoolgirls who spend their school vacation visiting the aging aunt of their classmate. This is the kind of film you want to see in theaters if you have a chance - but barring that see it at home, after it's out on dvd, with an open-minded crowd of friends who dig foreign, cult or arthouse films.

    Gorgeous, as she's known, is irate that her father has decided to remarry, and so she invites her friends to stay in the aging and empty country house of her aunt rather than go with her father and his fiancee on vacation. We are introduced to each of her friends, all of whom have nicknames that describe their temperament and character: there is the beautiful Gorgeous, there's the apparently dreamy and gullible Fantasy, the brainy Professor, the always hungry Mac, the musical Melody, and so on. Along the way, on a magical train ride in which the animated fantasy background that shines through the windows of the train seems to resemble a film strip, she tells them how her aunt had once loved a man who promised to come for her after the war, but never returned.
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    3 Comments 47 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    House moves seamlessly from John Hughes-style teen comedy, to Sam Raimi-style horror come Theater of the Absurd. The film, originally released in 1977, but never in the US, is hard to define. The horror is too graphic for the film to be a comedy, yet too knowingly asinine to truly be horror. Because of it's uneven mixture of Easy Rider acid trip sequences and over-the-top humor House becomes more and more incomprehensible as it moves forward (which may be the precise recipe for a cult classic). Gorgeous and friends (all named with an odd seven dwarfs bent) retreat to her aunt's home for the summer. They make their arrival at the house with The John Hughes Cheese Factor off the charts. But it doesn't take long after their arrival for things to turn for the worse, as one disappears during dinner. Moments later her head is found inside of a well, just before it flies high in the air and swoops down, laughing, to bite her friend in the butt. Obayashi utilizes every effect and tool he can think of to make this as psychedelic as possible, further distancing this film from easy classification. If the trick was available in '77, he's trying it here. From there the film unravels into a non-sensical plot. The film is hilarious in ways that most films would never try to be. It's morbid, yes, but it's also slapstick. It is whatever kind of humor uses a jaunty tune to soundtrack a piano eating a girl and flinging her limbs in the air when it slams the lid shut. House unravels, yes, but it's satisfying. And maybe making sense, here, is unwarranted. Ultimately, the film just doesn't need to resolve, because it accomplishes its goals without tying up the loose ends.
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