October is here! Halloween is fast approaching…and it’s the perfect time of year foooor…you guessed it–scary movies~! Now, I don’t know about you, but while I can appreciate creepy aesthetics, I actually have a rather weak stomach. Gory slasher flicks are hard for me to sit through, and jumpscares have me through the roof…! But there’s a fantastic movie that I like to bring out every Halloween, that’s the perfect mix of horror, camp, and humor…and that movie is Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s ‘Hausu’.
Now, Japanese horror films are often considered a genre of their own by movie buffs–and there are so many classic J-horror movies to choose from! “Ju-on” (“The Grudge“), “Audition”, and “Ringu” (“The Ring“) are just a few films that come to mind when thinking about the genre. These movies are famous world-wide, and have even come to set the standard with certain horror movie tropes (like spooky ghost girls with long black hair! ). But the film we’re discussing today is infamous in a different way…The plot is absurd. The acting is cheesy. The special effects are hokey. But the reason that this movie has so many fans throughout the world is because, well…there’s just nothing else like it! It’s one of those movies that’s hard to describe–you just have to jump in and experience it! But, this is a blog with words, so I’ll do my best to introduce you to this trippy world full of blood-spewing cats and dancing skeletons…
So now that I’ve waxed poetic long enough–what is this story about?! The film follows the stylish-but-vain Gorgeous (yes, that is actually her name) as she re-connects with a mysterious long-lost Auntie with whom she decides to spend her summer vacation with. She brings along her best friends to enjoy what will hopefully be carefree summer shenanigans with, who each have an also conveniently appropriate name–the musical Melody, the geeky Prof, the always hungry Mac, the innocent Sweet, the ditzy Fantasy, and the sporty master Kung-Fu. They journey into the country-side to an amazingly groovy 70s soundtrack and arrive at Auntie’s traditional Japanese home in the middle of nowhere…
Now, Auntie seems pleasant at first, welcoming the company of the excitable schoolgirls, but it’s obvious that something is up. She’s always accompanied by a mysterious white cat–which hunted the girls out in the beginning of the movie, summoning them to Auntie’s home like the white rabbit of Alice in Wonderland. She talks to her appliances and they magically turn on. She hints at being “hungry”, while eyeing up the chubby Mac…Is she a cannibal? A witch? As the night goes on, the girls start disappearing, one-by-one–and the house itself is alive, and is in on whatever witchcraft is going on! Which all leads to some very strange death scenes, involving man-eating pianos and malicious futon mats…oh, and a decapitated head bites one of the girl’s butts. ( I can’t make this stuff up… )
Without spoiling too much, the movie ends on a strangely positive note–but the viewer is left wondering “Was it all a dream? Did certain characters really die in the house, or was this all one big dramatic coming-of-age metaphor?” And…despite seeing this film countless times, I still don’t know. My answer on the meaning of the story changes with each time I watch it. This might be frustrating for certain viewers–it depends how you feel about vague endings. But I personally count it as a positive quality, and if nothing else…the journey there is memorable enough for it to be worth a watch!
Overall, “Hausu” is absurd and silly–but there’s an innocent, dream-like quality to it that is hypnotizing. The combination of color, film overlay, and hand-drawn animated effects is beautifully strange, like the nightmares you might have had as a child. The plot was actually conceived by the writer’s young daughter, which explains some of the more surreal concepts in the movie. And perhaps it’s thanks to the actresses not taking themselves too seriously, and the weirdly upbeat soundtrack, but there’s something pleasantly cheerful about this film…despite it technically being considered a ‘horror’ film. It’s perfect to watch with a group of friends–why not throw it on during a Halloween party?
Have you seen ‘Hausu’ before? What did you think of it? And what do you think the ending meant? Tell me all about it in a comment! Until next time~~