In 1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi directed one of the craziest genre bending homage horror films that I have ever seen. It has a release from The Criterion Collection that is currently on sale for half price through Barnes and Noble. I’m not gonna lie. I think you should get it.
This film centers around a handful of teen girls that go and spend some time in a house. Of course, the house is haunted. Of course, there is a strange amount of subtle, and not so subtle, scenes of repressed Japanese sexuality. The most surprising thing that I can say about this very stereotypical build up to a film that drowns is cliché is that it is totally awesome.
This haunted house is a blood-drenched mess that is just as silly as it is scary. Some of the silliness comes from lack of budget and film technology of course. This makes for strange animated sequences, incredibly fake practical effects, and some scenes that I really just can’t describe. Some of the scenes of dismemberment make the animation in the first episodes of South Park look like they could win an Academy Award. In most cases, movies described like this would turn people off. I think this one will be truly loved by many though.
You see, this film does things that were ahead of its time. It was experimental in the way it used effects, camera effects, lighting, and editing. While I’m not a film technology historian, I can tell you that there is a strange feeling that mixes quaint with groundbreaking when you see the overall aesthetic of the film. So despite the fact that it isn’t the most original teen/horror/comedy/satire that you’ve ever seen, its visually arresting nature should appeal to many types of fans in spite of its issues.
As far as these visuals go, it is where I see much of the homage the film has to offer. For instance, this film does a great job using lighting to pay homage to the Giallo techniques perfected by Dario Argento. It even has some splatter-iffic scenes that would make Fulci proud. I think the set design and use of music also relied heavily on some of the older works of Mario Bava. As far as satire goes, there is a strange set of motifs that hilariously pokes fun at American hippie culture and musical/comedies. Somewhere in there, I can even see an amalgamation of the Japanese Stray Cat Rock series with the more modern horror/comedy/musical The Happiness of the Katakuris.
At this point, this film “review” isn’t much more than a list of vague observations…trust me, I see it too. However, when you see the film you will completely understand that it cannot be described. It has cats with glowing eyes, carnivorous pianos, surreal settings, and gallons of gore. I think fans of old school Giallo will appreciate it just as much as fans of eighties slashers. I think even the modern day horror/comedy fans will find it hard to ignore. In this case, even the “boutique” label collectors out there may find that this quickly climbs the ranks of their Criterion Collection collection.