Criterion Corner: House 1977.

The Criterion Collection for years have been releasing the best versions of movies on DVD and Blue Ray.  They are hands down the ultimate praise a film can receive,and while many claim  the Oscar to be  the ultimate recognition.  Having the work and praise that goes into a Criterion edition.  Shows that it was put together by film lovers for film lovers.  This section is going to be dedicated to some of the great movies in this growing collection.

House 2

Those of you who thought “Cabin in The Woods”  took the horror genre to new heights because of the way certain horror tropes were identified and satirized should really take a look at this movie.   Released in 1977, “House” could have been your typical ghost story.  Seven girls go to one of their friend’s house that turns out to be haunted.  But what Mr. Obayshi does with the material is to put you inside the mind of a kid who is creating this scary story.   The movie has a wide range of different genres within it.  It can go from being melodramatic to scary, to funny to just being all over the place.  You have to make up your own mind about how these moments affect you.   Most horror movies try to remain in reality because then the situations on screen will be more frightening.    “House” wants you to know that it is just a movie,and it does it without having to be meta about it. One of the first title cards is just the words “A Movie” because that’s what it is.

So the story for those who want a little more explanation involves a young girl named Gorgeous(Kimiko Ikegami).  Her father has recently got remarried and she’s feeling hesitant against her new mother in law.  She  writes her aunt (Yoko Minamida) in hopes she can visit her mom’s old town before she passed away.   Joining her on this trip are her friends, and yes they all have nicknames like her.  Prof(Ai Matsubara),Kung Fu(Miki Jinbo), Mac(Meiko Sato)and Fantasy(Kumiko Oba) are among the ones going.   I like that all their names represents their personalities.   When they get to the house strange things begin happening and I’m not going to tell you anymore then that.

Earlier I mentioned how the story feels like it was set inside the mind of a kid. Well that’s because one of the writers of this was only nine years old when she conceived many of the paranormal attacks and kills that appear in this movie.  Most children have a hyper active imagination and they can go all over the place when they tell a story.  A lot of it may not make much sense, but it’s still really fascinating to watch.  I once asked my five year old nephew to create a superhero and he came up with Kitty Jumper and explained how cats helped him jump higher.  As an adult I don’t see much logic in this, but in a kid’s mind it’s really cool.   To see the imagination of one young kid’s mind appear on screen like it does is something quite remarkable. Obayshi does a lot of in camera tricks that would have been replaced by computers if made today.  Yes the effects are very cheesy, but they also give the movie it’s style and charm too.   After all this is a movie, and having the effects appear real would ruin the filmmakers intention.

Most of you will just disregard this as being weird and find nothing fun about it.  I can’t fault you at all with your opinion.  It doesn’t follow one particular genre and I understand how that could upset some of you.    The only thing I ask for first time viewers is to look at this movie from the mind of a child.  Yes children can like scary things too.  Infact this movie was a big hit for younger kids when it was released in Japan   This is like an episode of “Scooby Doo” on acid,and what makes it even that more bizarre is that those shows were written by adults for kids.  “House” was co written by a kid and is played mostly to adults.

Criterion Special Features.

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Constructing a “House,” a new video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, story scenarist and daughter of the filmmaker Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chiho Katsura
  • Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
  • New video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Chuck Stephens

(Theatrical Trailer. Criterion Collection)


About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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2 Responses to Criterion Corner: House 1977.

  1. I know I’ve commented about this one before, but I love House especially because it’s so hard to put a finger on it in terms of tone, genre (and coherence)! Somehow, it keeps getting better for me on subsequent viewings. Go figure.

  2. The Vern says:

    Thanks for posting a new Comment Barry. Yeah My goal this year is to get friends of mine to see it.

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