I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Japanese horror (“horror”) film Hausu (or House, if you demand Englishness), but I watched it over the weekend, and BOY OH BOY was it a thing that happened.
At first blush it seems as though this would be the kind of movie that bombed hard and then gained a cult following in the decades that followed. This is mostly the case, or at least that’s what I got from briefly skimming the Wikipedia article. But this film is actually part of the Criterion Collection! It’s considered to be fine art! Which is not the kind of thing one would suspect after having watched it!
That’s not to say that Hausu is without merit. It’s got a lot of insane scenes and I certainly appreciate that they were going for wacky. But as a whole, it mostly left me cold. Maybe it’s because we live in the year 2016 and I’ve become desensitized to goofiness, but I feel like they didn’t really push the envelope far enough. There remains plenty of room to be even more mind-boggling.
But hey, three paragraphs in and I’ve already written my conclusion! That will not do! Let’s turn this puppy around and start from the start. Which I’m going to tear through in a single paragraph, because the first half hour is a slog.
Oh, one last little sidebar: I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for what feels like a decade now. I don’t remember where I first heard about it (probably I-Mockery?), but I do remember looking for the DVD at Best Buy one time. It was like $60. Nope. So… I just forgot about it until last weekend when I, uh, “found” a “copy.” End sidebar.
Gorgeous and her six friends, all of whom are named after a defining personality trait, go out to her aunt’s villa for summer vacation, because training camp (training for what is never explained) is cancelled and Gorgeous is upset that her dad is getting remarried. Along the way they learn that the aunt lost her fiancée in WWII and has been alone ever since. Also there’s a creepy fatso who runs a watermelon stand down the hill from the house.
Everything seems fine, if not a little bit off. The house is covered in dust and the appliances are out of order because the aunt is an enfeebled hermit. But she’s thankful enough that the girls have come and they offer to clean the place up. After dinner that night, The One Who Likes To Eat (Mac), goes over to the well where the girls had left a watermelon to cool. When Mac doesn’t return, The One With An Overactive Imagination (Fantasy) goes to check on her. This is when things take a turn.
If you’ve seen a horror movie –any horror movie- you know what happens next. There is no sign of Mac by the well, so Fantasy begins to pull up the watermelon on her own. But surprise! The watermelon has been replaced by Mac’s severed head!
In any other movie, Fantasy would scream, drop the head back in the well, and then run back to tell the others, who call her crazy. But this is House, so instead, Mac’s disembodied head begins to cackle and bounce around before biting Fantasy right on the tush. Only then does Fantasy run back to tell the others, who call her crazy. The rest go over to the well and pull up -surprise- the watermelon, and they all sit down to have a delicious fruity dessert. And of course the aunt creeps out Fantasy further by opening her mouth to show that she’s chewing down on an eyeball. Somehow.
The girls eventually stop caring where Mac went, and The Submissive One (Sweet) becomes the official maid of the house, donning an apron and beginning to scrub the floors. Gorgeous takes a bath, which is an ultimately pointless scene because it adds nothing to the story and there is only the briefest flash of one boob (these are high-school girls, BTDubs. Don’t enjoy it too much). I guess maybe it serves the purpose of separating her from the rest of the group? Also Sweet gets trapped in the shed, where she is subsequently assaulted and killed by mattresses.
This movie, you guys.
All the while, the aunt is in the living room, dancing to a jaunty tune on the piano, while one of those anatomy skeletons clacks along. I had seen a picture of the skeleton dancing thanks to a Google image search before I actually watched the movie, and I had thought that he would play a larger role. Sadly, this is about it for him. Also, the aunt more or less vanishes from this point onward.
Fantasy witnesses this strange murder and reports it to the rest of the crew. They assess the scene of the crime, but find no evidence aside from Sweet’s undergarments, which of course they take time to fondle and sniff, because Japan. They all head upstairs, searching for Gorgeous, who by this point, has somehow become possessed by something though a mirror, and bails on the rest of the girls. She leaves the house, and all of the door screens and windows slam shut on their own, trapping the survivors inside.
The crew retreat to the living room where The Musical One (Melody) begins to play the piano to calm them all down while The Smart One (Prof) and The One I Have A Crush On (Kung Fu) try to deduce what’s happening in the house. Prof and Kung Fu go looking for clues, while
Shaggy and Scooby Melody and Fantasy stay behind. Back upstairs, Prof and Kung Fu meet a ghost (either Gorgeous or her mother, I couldn’t tell) that gives them the aunt’s diary.
Downstairs, Melody has become completely transfixed by the haunted piano. It throws Fantasy against the wall, knocking her out, and then devours Melody. You know that haunted piano in Super Mario 64? The one that scared the crap out of you the first time it came to life? That piano has nothing on this piano. The way it gobbles up Melody, which takes several minutes and features no less than a dozen shots of various body parts waggling and floating about, is like something from another world. It’s completely bonkers to Adult Ryan, but Child Ryan would have been scarred for life after watching this. And of course, it ends on an upskirt shot of Melody’s legs sticking out of the piano. Oh, Japan.
Prof and Kung Fu rush downstairs to discover the bloody mess around the piano and an unconscious Fantasy. Kung Fu then successfully fights the telephone, but loses a battle to a ceiling lamp and is eaten.
I’m going to give you a minute to soak that in.
Prof discovers that the house’s evil powers might emanate from the aunt’s white cat. So then Kung Fu’s disembodied legs fly out of the lamp and kick a picture of the cat to pieces. The remains of the picture then lets loose a geyser of blood, Evil Dead 2 style, which floods the house. Prof and Fantasy take refuge on a floating section of floor, but Prof is dragged under the blood by a possessed floating jar (???) where she is subsequently stripped (with a drawn-out underwater boobies montage) and disintegrated.
Fantasy rides the floor tile through the house, where she ultimately meets up with Gorgeous. Delirious and exhausted, Fantasy tears off Gorgeous’ shirt and then falls asleep in her arms. Fade to black.
The morning after, Gorgeous’ step-mom drives out to the house, where she meets Gorgeous and then is instantaneously burned away to nothing by a magical handshake.
And that’s the end.
This movie! You guys! This movie! Gah!
Also I guess it’s important to note that Gorgeous’ body was being possessed by the aunt’s soul, which was also possessing the house, because she was actually dead all along. At some point the giant ghostly face of Gorgeous had appeared to the other girls to tell them what was going on and that the house was eating them all. I had forgotten about that scene until just now, as I was taking a moment to reflect on the film. I think that was right before Kung Fu battled the telephone.
Consider all that you have just read. Now imagine it all with (intentionally) terrible special effects. Now layer on traditional Japanese over-acting and eccentric cinematography. This movie is certainly notable, but I don’t know if it’s really in a good way. I’m very conflicted about how I feel about what I witnessed. I didn’t even include the sub-plot about the girls’ teacher who ends up being turned into a mountain of bananas.
I guess the answer here comes in my conclusion: yeah, you should probably watch this. If you’re the type to do drugs, definitely get that going before you watch. I mean, I don’t think you need any chemical assistance for this one, as it’s already got a dancing plastic skeleton and plenty of out-of-place eyeballs, but it couldn’t hurt. Another thing that couldn’t hurt would be skipping to the 40-minute mark or so. They spend so much time building characters and a world that end up very one-dimensional anyway, that you won’t really miss anything if you move ahead to the point where weird stuff starts to happen.
I really had no intention of writing such a lengthy synopsis of this film, but there you have it. I suppose if it’s this long, I’d better go find some screenshots to plonk in there. Ugh. Not that you’ll know. You’re only seeing the finished product. Why am I still writing?
P.S. – I went and checked I-Mockery, and they do have a review, and it’s super long, and much funnier than mine, and has a cubic buttload of GIFs.