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55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One release I never thought I'd see in my lifetime..
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...
Published on September 16, 2010 by ac

versus
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out-Bloody-Rageous
What the other reviewers have all said about this is pretty much on the mark. This is one of the odder movies one is ever likely to encounter. The producers and director must have been doing some heavy weed when they came up with this one.

Some high school girlfriends, with odd names, (Gorgeous, Kung Fu, Mac, Fantasy, etc.) all go to spend some time at...
Published on November 8, 2010 by Eric Sanberg


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55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One release I never thought I'd see in my lifetime.., September 16, 2010
By 
This review is from: House (The Criterion Collection) (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? Well, opinions will differ, but I found this movie absolutely brilliant, one of the most entertaining I have EVER seen, with brilliant scene after brilliant scene of surreal absurdity. This film is downright INSANE, but it's charming. It's one of those films that you'll watch and say, "Okay, I HAVE TO show this to every single one of my friends now!" Infinitely rewatchable (I've probably watched my Japanese copy 20 times in the past 5 years), hilariously madcap, and endlessly inspiring. There is violence here, but it's all so silly... this is about as much a "horror" film as Riki-Oh is a "kung-fu" movie; it has all the "cool" elements of a genre film, but it's really just an excuse to cram as many insane scenes into a film as possible.

Oh, did I mention a piano eats a girl? ... The effects are what really make this film a sight to behold. They're actually surprisingly well-done, and even though I already own this film, I'm going to buy the Criterion edition just to see how they pulled off some of this stuff! Yes, as usual, the Criterion DVD is loaded with great special features, the best of which has to be the 1966 short film "Emotion" -- without a doubt one of the greatest short films ever, and definitely my favorite of the "experimental Japanese New Wave" school (along with the aforementioned Matsumoto and Terayama). Honestly, "Emotion" is even better than the main feature -- how insane is that? This is just one unbelievably value packed release, one that everyone needs!

So, yes, it is a very unlikely Criterion release, but kudos to them for taking a chance with this one. It is a film that needs to be seen -- I can't imagine anyone NOT having a good time with it. And I really hope it sells well, because there just flat-out aren't many DVD companies releasing these kinds of crazy Japanese films anymore, since Tartan folded. Maybe, just maybe, if we're lucky, we'll all be able to see a Pastoral: To Die in the Country (aka "the greatest film ever made") release from Criterion sometime in our lifetimes....? Well, I can dream. But until that day comes, I'll be watching this one about once a month. Order it today!
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal & scary silly Japanese bedtime horror - young girls, ghosts, a haunted house, psychedelic effects & a groovy soundtrack!, August 2, 2010
This review is from: House (The Criterion Collection) (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. When they arrive, their aunt seems a bit too eager to see them, and odd remarks lead to inexplicable occurrences, and pretty soon it's over-the-top scary silly supernatural surreal mayhem. The director seems to delight in retro-styled effects and sight gags, using stop motion and many other inventive techniques to create a fantastic realm of visual jokes and horror. Combining live action and animation, the film transcends kitch and schlockiness into a realm of cinematic magic, that draws upon Japanese magical traditions of Yokai and witches and vengeful ghosts, but also evokes the era in which it was made, and appears to be making fun of a certain kind of depiction of youth in cinema. Fun stuff, and exciting to see that Criterion is releasing it (not surprising given that Janus films is supervising the current critically acclaimed theatrical rerelease).

Here's what to expect on the 1-disc Criterion set:
-a new, restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-a video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, story scenarist and daughter of the director Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chiho Katsura
-Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
-a new video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
-the theatrical trailer
-new and improved English subtitle translation
-and an essay by film critic Chuck Stephens
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely enthralling, July 25, 2011
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This review is from: House (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
There is very little I could say about House to do it justice. It is such a unique film that anything I say about it will be misleading. Suffice it to say that in a world where the same movie is remade over and over and over House is something that appears to be completely original. It is also extremely entertaining. I am grateful to the Criterion Collection for bringing this outstanding film to my attention. If you are reading this page then your curiosity is already sparked. If you find yourself interested in watching an extremely absurd and funny horror/art film with great visuals, then you cannot go wrong buying this DVD.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Buy it, very cool., March 3, 2011
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The people who are giving this movie bad reviews need to loosen up. This movie is great. The most amazing 70's visual effects I have seen besides Star Wars... If you are in to the "vintage 70's film look", Michel Gondry, Japanese pop art, 70's horror movies, Phsycedelic art, ect.., you will love this! And NO you do not have to be high to love this, you just have to have good taste.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Extras for this Highly Unusual and Unique Film!, November 5, 2010
By 
Cubist (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: House (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
When you first start watching House, you think that you're watching The Partridge Family - The Complete First Season on acid and you wonder when the horror film elements are going appear which really doesn't happen until the girls arrive at auntie's house. Obayashi utilizes all sorts of deliberately cheap special effects, like obvious rear projection and clunky animation but mixes it with sophisticated effects and stunning cinematography to create a heightened sense of the universe. Throw in unpredictable segues to other scenes that have a jarring, unsettling effect and you have a unique film. These schizophrenic tempo changes and an often cartoonish take on horror can be seen in later in the early films of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson but House has them both beat in terms of sheer audacity and unhinged imagery. If you haven't surrendered to House by the time one of the girls is devoured by a piano then this is probably not the film for you. This is a film not to be seen but to be experienced much like Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, another head trip kind of film.

"Emotion" is a 1966 experimental short film made by Obayashi. It displays a lot of the stylistic flourishes still in their infancy and that would surface again in House - these include bizarre segues, hyperactive editing and unusual musical cues.

"House Appraisal" features filmmaker Ti West offering his thoughts on the film. He sees it as being told from the point-of-view of a child. He also comments on the influence of Obayashi's work as a television commercial director. West speaks admiringly of House's originality and contrasts it with lack of creativity in many contemporary horror films.

"Constructing a House" features new interviews with Obayashi, his daughter Chigumi and screenwriter Chiho Katsura as they talk about the film's origins. Obayashi talks about his beginnings making T.V. ads and how they led to making House. Chigumi talks about how visiting her grandparents one summer gave her ideas for the film.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Tear Down This 'House' 'Till You Have a Look Inside..., January 22, 2011
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Normally, I would NEVER even consider watching the bonus supplements or featurettes prior to watching the film itself, for the most obvious reasons - spoilers, hindsight recollections and justifications, and often the BS that those involved in production conjure up several decades after the film was made to make themselves appear more clever and grandiose than was probably the case. By the same token, if I don't enjoy a film, I usually can't be convinced by these features that I'm missing the boat - you either like something or don't, with few exceptions, IMHO. That said, sometimes, as infrequent as it is, when I'm still scratching my head when a flick is over, the bonuses will illuminate and enlighten to the point where I now have received the clarification necessary for me to fully comprehend and enjoy aspects of a film obscured to me for one reason or another. Such is the case with 'House', almost more so than any foreign flick I've ever seen.

When a film is hyped up to be 'all that', my expectations lead me to be only one thing - let down. When you read the Amazon product details as well as the dvd cover description, the promise sounds far too brilliant to be realized, so I decided to do a little research. After reading several website reviews, I felt I was getting farther from the truth instead of closer, so I decided to watch the bonus features before I sat through the actual movie. This is one of the few times when doing so proved to be absolutely essential to my overall viewing experience and ultimate enjoyment of this minor yet remarkable movie. There aren't many spoilers, at least none that would detract from your gratification, and to hear the way the film evolved directly from the mouth of director Nobuhiko Obayashi added the necessary seasonings to appreciate the film for what it is, what it isn't and what the hype tells us it should be. "An episode of 'Scooby-Doo' as directed by Mario Bava"? Puh-leese... I've seen every Bava flick there is and there's no such similarity - maybe Seijun Suzuki is who they meant. (By way of Tim Burton, but now I'm adding to the hype...).

By the time I actually sat through the film itself, I had a better understanding of what this film actually was, and could judge it on its own merits, budgetary and special effect restraints, constraints and sheer brilliance in execution and concept alone. As a result, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this anomaly in film from the 70's without reserve and would strongly suggest to anyone remotely interested in this film to do likewise - you won't be sorry you did.

(PS- The bonus 1966 experimental film is another added treat of sorts, and viewing it in advance will also increase your appreciation of the main feature).

A solid four star film I'm adding one star to for its sheer originality, and to make up for some of its unwarranted detractors here on Amazon. You want different? You got it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my fave movies ever!!!!!, January 29, 2011
This review is from: House (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
This movie is way ahead of it's time. Dagnabbit. So good.
I don't know why people keep mentioning drugs here. You should not be high when watching it, or you'll miss a lot of awesome scenes.
But an awareness of media, art, and entertainment is good, I guess? And a sense of humor. If you're just expecting a classic horror film, you'll be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scooby Doo on LSD ~ What a crazy thrill ride ~, July 18, 2012
I love Criterion Collection and their wonderful catalog of classic and important films. I recently checked this strange find out from my local library (where it does get requested a fair amount). I didn't know what to expect, really. I only knew that many film buffs list it among the stranger films they've seen. Up there with Naked Lunch. But unlike many of the odd or strange films, one doesn't have to be stoned out of their mind to enjoy this one. Actually this film is better enjoyed sober since it is quite understandable if you pay attention. And no. I'm not saying it has a great story, but you can actually follow along with the weirdness.

I'll sum it up so that you might know what you're getting into. A bunch of teen girls go out of town to visit a relative. Once they arrive, the movie gets super weird. Expect flying dismembered heads that bite tushies, a beautiful yet blood lusting cat named Blanche, a creepy aunt in a wheelchair (who apparently can fly and such), fountains of blood, dancing skeletons, people turning into bananas or baby dolls, and (the best in my opinion) a man eating piano. Yes.

What I noticed right off was that despite the terrible 1970s special effects, the actual shots were rather nice. This isn't some 'hack' making a B movie, no, this director set up interesting shots and used framing very well. The use of color and shadow are also extremely well done. It is a visual delight, and the cheesy 70s effects actually endeared me to the film even more. As I understand it, the effects were intentionally low quality, more in line with early 70s pop music videos and television shows.

The story is pretty silly and not at all well written, though I think that was the point. The characters have names like 'Kung-Fu', 'Gorgeous', 'Melody', 'Fantasy' and 'Mac'. These are not just funny English subtitles, the Japanese actresses actually say these names in Japanese inflected English (like saying Ma-ku for Mac or Go-ru-ju-su for Gorgeous).

The story really boils down to the main character, Gorgeous, and her family. Her mother passed away and her dad is planning to remarry. Bonus: great fan work whenever the future step mom is in shots - it's like a Whitesnake video.

Also of note: most of the film's more bizarre ideas came from the director's daughter. He asked her what she thought would be good and weird to have in the film because (as she put it) "adults only think about things they understand". Hence the weirdness. Also, his daughter does have a quick cameo in the film.

Criterion acquired the rights to this film about 33 years after its Japanese release. They had intended to put this film in their 'Eclipse Series', that is the series for their cult films or other films they don't intend to spend a lot of money marketing or make a lot of money selling. But due to immense initial interest, they released it as a regular Criterion film and put the film into production for theaters to show.

It's weird and twisted. I've heard people compare it to a '(bleep)ed up Scooby Doo', and that does sound about right. I absolutely love the weirdness, creepiness, and tongue in cheek hilarity. It's not an amazingly made film, but it's just entertaining as heck. So if you go into it with an open mind and expect weirdness then it's probably okay. Also of note: two brief nude scenes for those squeamish about such things. And plenty of blood. And dismemberment. But nothing too graphic. It made me laugh more than it shocked me. I think the Austin Chronicle summed it up well: "there's surprisingly little to recommend House as a film. But as an experience, well, that's a whole other story."

PS: Blanche for President!!!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poltergeist directed by a crazy teletubbie, November 7, 2010
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This review is from: House (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Length:: 4:36 Mins

Video review by future world famous serial killer Christopher Mackshere.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out-Bloody-Rageous, November 8, 2010
By 
Eric Sanberg (Villa Park, IL United States) - See all my reviews
What the other reviewers have all said about this is pretty much on the mark. This is one of the odder movies one is ever likely to encounter. The producers and director must have been doing some heavy weed when they came up with this one.

Some high school girlfriends, with odd names, (Gorgeous, Kung Fu, Mac, Fantasy, etc.) all go to spend some time at Gorgeous' aunt's house somewhere in the Japanese countryside. Quite simply, the house is haunted and the girls get offed one by one. The aunt is an odd one who, at first, is in a wheel chair, then somehow no longer needs it and is dancing around without a care. She pines away for her dead soldier husband who she thinks will somehow come back to be with her. This might be the least odd aspect of the movie. The sets are obviously sets but done up to give almost a fantasy feel. Some of the backgrounds are also obviously painted. But, again, they're done so to give a particular feel. The way the girls meet their demise is also peculiar. Each meets their end by whichever trait they're known. Mac is a chow hound. She gets killed while retrieving a watermelon. Melody (in one of the oddest scenes I've ever seen) gets eaten by a piano while playing it. And on and on.

This is by Toho Studios. They are the ones who gave us the likes of Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla, et al. This seems a huge departure from their usual fare. Yes it's weird. It does keep your attention but it does get a bit tiring after a bit. This might be due partly because of the limp payoff. It turns out (and this is no real spoiler) auntie is really a ghost and is so upset that her hubby hasn't come back from the war that she wants to kill all unmarried young girls she comes into contact with. All these odd deaths happen but there is no building of clues to the punch line. They just happen and everything gets explained in the last few minutes.

The production values were uneven. The cinematography is decent enough. It's difficult to tell because the look is so odd. The music is really weird. There is a cool jazz-fusion piece during the climax but then you get these really cheezy ballads that I cannot imagine anyone took seriously. These must be a joke. The sound. It's rumored in the audio industry that the Japanese cannot make speakers for westerners because they hear things higher than we do. I don't want to believe this but the grating sound of all these young girls either laughing or screaming might make me jump over that fence. I have a really good surround system and this was almost too much to bare. The editing was uneven. In some scenes it was hack level. In others it just plain sucked.

Don't get me wrong. If weird is your poison then this should inch toward the top of your list. If you're strictly meat and potatoes, then take a pass. It certainly isn't the best film ever made bit it is out-bloody-rageous.
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House (The Criterion Collection)
House (The Criterion Collection) by Nobuhiko Obayashi (DVD - 2010)
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