I first caught glimpse of this incredible cult object years ago on late-night cable, and was fairly certain it couldn't have been real and that my hazy memory of it was the result of a hangover, hallucination or a midnight chili-cheese-fry binge. I was wrong, House is very real, very strange and even more willfully weird than I'd remembered. A perpetually giggly clan of soft-lit Japanese schoolgirls, all sporting cutesy nicknames, such as "Fantasy," "Kung Fu" and "Gorgeous," impulsively set out for a summer getaway at a spooky country house, because ringleader "Gorgeous" doesn't like her new stepmom. That's a bad call, as the house, owned by her creepy auntie, turns into an absurdist funhouse of horrors, including a carnivorous piano, a soul-eating mirror and a fluffy malevolent kitty that'd be comfier in the lap of a Bond villain. Nubiles undress and get memorably dispatched. Dig one girl's disembodied limbs continue to karate-kick evil ghosts.
Director Nobuhiko Obayashi throws in every insane trick — wipes, dissolves, freeze frames, strobe lights — including rivers of blood that resemble Hawaiian Punch.
The result is phantasmagoric nonsense, as if Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Russ Meyer and Roman Polanski had randomly edited together clips from a soap opera, a slasher flick and a feminine hygiene commercial. Everything from the fake-looking matte paintings to the grating disco-porn soundtrack tips this as a giddily unrestrained spoof, but there are still unnerving gory moments and dizzying technical tricks that have clearly influenced latter-day gonzo J-horror stylists such as Takashi Miike. House may be an aggravating, unwatchable curiosity to some, but somewhere out there lurks a genre-loving kid hungry to have his mind scooped clean out.
Opens Friday, May 21 exclusively at the Burton Theatre (3420 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-473-9238; Burtontheatre.com).
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].