Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Weird Weird World of Nobuhiko Obayashi's Gleefully Mad & Demented, and Brilliantly Batshitcrazy Hausu !!!!!?!

Hey Kids! If you have ever taken the time to wonder (and who hasn't!?) if there were a film out there somewhere, that is equal parts Dario Argento, the crazy psychedelic world of Sid & Marty Krofft, a 1980's pop music video, the works of Guy Maddin, and soft core Japanese schoolgirl porn, well look no further because your search has finally ended, and what strange strange fruit it has borne. This film cannot, or make that should not, be explained. It may very well be the film for which the term batshitcrazy was invented to describe.

Being the story of seven schoolgirls with names such as Gorgeous, Fantasy, Sweet, Kung-Fu (my personal fave), Prof, Melody and Mac (all of course possessing a quality to match their monikers) visiting what of course ends up being a haunted house (story idea by Obayashi's preteen daughter) where the most gleefully enjoyable blood bath ensues and girls are eaten by killer pianos and light fixtures, or are beheaded and come back to try to eat the others (not to mention the evil killer cat, the noodle-eating bear and the fat demented watermelon man!?) the film is not what the average filmgoer would typically call great cinema. But damned if it isn't great cinema anyway.

And now, with Halloween coming up in just a few days, I thought it an apt time to tell ya'll about this mad mad mad movie. I remember buying the Criterion blu-ray, sight unseen. The poster image of a psychotically-drawn cat (seen above) was more then enough to make me plunk down whatever amount it was and buy the damned thing. All I really knew about the film going in, was the funky orange cat on the cover, and that it was some sort of cult Japanese horror film. What the Hell else did I need to know? Upon watching it (projected onto the big screen, after hours at Midtown Cinema, the arthouse my wife and I once ran) I knew right away that the right spur-of-the-moment decision had been made. Purposely cheap looking and full of some of the most splendidly maniacal cheap thrills this cinephile has ever seen, Hausu (aka, House) is easily one of my newly minted favourite films. Damn it, it even won a place of honour in my personal 100 greatest films canon.

Stealing from an old recurring feature, here briefly, are my 10 Favourite Things About Hausu.

1) The Music - Most would probably say this is an annoying quality but for me it means something powerful, musically speaking, has happened. Just like that whistle in Kill Bill, the recurring theme song of the movie - In the Evening Mist I believe it is called - stays in my head for weeks each and every time I watch the film. In fact it is in there right now (he says as happily humming said tune as he types).

2) The Names - Several have been changed when translated, but let us go with the ones from the US release (since that is the only one I have seen). Gorgeous (called Angel in the original Japanese version) is always dressing herself up. Fantasy is a dreamer. Sweet will do anything to help. Melody is the musician. Prof is the smart one. You can tell because she wears glasses. Kung-Fu kicks ass. Mac eats a lot. I am guessing this is some take on stomach and not the ubiquitous McDonald's reference. But yeah, the names are as great as everything else in this fun fun fun movie.

3) The Style - Obayashi's use of such garishly cheesy sets and designs and special effects are a huge part of what makes me loooove this film so so soooomuch. If this film had been done in any sort of traditional way it would not be nearly as enjoyable as it ends up being. It is blatantly, and quite arrogantly, cheap and that is just the way it needs to be - and just the way we all love it so so soooo.

4) The Cheese - One character, Gorgeous's wouldbe step mother, goes nowhere without her off camera wind machine. Constantly wind swept in every scene, even when no one else is, may be a not-so-subtle rag on the melodramatic ways of classical cinema.

5) The Ass Kicker - Kung-Fu. I told you she was my favourite. Randomly kicking ass (stuck cabinet doors, mice, a telephone, that crazy-ass cat, ghosts & skeletons) and stripping down to her underwear (for no apparent reason other than to titillate the male audience members) she is the sexy go-to girl in this bunch. This kitten is fast as lightning indeed, and boy does she ever have claws.

6) The Art - It's all about that rerelease poster image (again, see above) that made me buy the disc sight unseen. It now adorns t-shirts, hats, and mouse pads, as well. What a great maniacal cat. The image actually nicely combines two of my wife and mine's own cats. It has the orange colour of our late great first cat Alex, but the demented killer-on-the-loose look of our youngest, Fanny.

7) The Fruit - Somewhat late in the film, there is an exchange between the wouldbe hero and a fruit seller. It goes something like this: "Do you like melons?" "I hate them!" "What do you like?" "Bananas!" Once you see the movie this will suddenly become freakin' hilarious. Trust me.

8) The Music, Pt. II - The seemingly out-of-place, but just as appropriately perfectly in place, presence of English language pop songs by Godiego. I suppose if the movie is going to be batshitcrazy, the soundtrack might as well be as well.

9) The Snacks, or the Music, Pt. III - Not to give anything away, but a piano eats a girl. To put it as bluntly as I can, it fucking devours the bitch. All the while, that damned haunting melody is playing - ironically by the actual character Melody.

10) Everything Else That Did Not Fit in the First Nine Spots - From the Partridge Family-esque bus ride to Fantasy's fantasies about her "manly" teacher to Gorgeous's aunt eating eyeballs to Obayashi's criticism of the atomic bomb (the director is from Hiroshima) to the closing credits that appear to be part of some seventies Japanese variety show to Mac's severed head taking a bite out of Fantasy's ass to pretty much everything else.

Anyhoo, that is what I have to say on the subject of the Weird Weird World of Nobuhiko Obayashi's Gleefully Mad & Demented, and Brilliantly Batshitcrazy Hausu. My only other request is that you go out and watch Hausu. If you have any sense of cinematic love, you will not regret your decision. If you do, well it's only 88 minutes, and you probably don't have any friends anyway. But before I go, please allow me one more shamelessly decadent image from this shamelessly batshitcrazy movie, the aforementioned Mac's severed head taking a bite out of Fantasy's ass. This movie that will bore into you freakin' soul and lay eggs that will later hatch and become a billion batshitcrazy babies ready to devour your mind with insane catchy pictures and tunes that will never leave your head. A demented infinity for us all!!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Now here's that ass-biting image I promised ya'll.


  1. This does sound batshit crazy!

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