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House (The Criterion Collection)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Sari Akasaka, Kyoko Hanyu, Sakio Hirata, Jinichi Isizaki, Jusin Kitamura
  • Directors: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
  • Writers: Kyoko Hanyu, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, Chigumi Ôbayashi, Chiho Katsura
  • Producers: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, Kyôko Ôbayashi, Yorihiko Yamada
  • Format: Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Oct. 26 2010
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003WKL6XA
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,896 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Product Description

How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi's indescribable 1977 movie HOUSE (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt's creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via a series of mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equal parts absurd and nightmarish, HOUSE might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it's one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.

Infamous Japanese whatsit House is the ultimate 1970s artifact. The animated opening recalls The Rocky Horror Picture Show, while former ad man Nobuhiko Obayashi extends the anything-goes impression through freeze frames, painted backdrops, and old-timey flashbacks. He starts by introducing schoolgirls Fantasy (Kumiko Ohba) and Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) to groovy H.R. Pufnstuf-style music. Then Gorgeous's widowed father presents his new bride, Ryôko (Haruko Wanibuchi), who enters like Joan Crawford in a flowing white gown. Afterward, Gorgeous invites Fantasy, Melody, Kung Fu, Prof, Sweet, and Mac to her aunt's house for the summer. Little does she know that Ryôko plans to crash the party.

While they gather at the train station, the film slips into slapstick Monkees territory: a shoemaker croons as Fantasy's crush object, Mr. Tôgô (Kiyohiko Ozaki), trips over Gorgeous's green-eyed cat, Blanche. The girls make it to the country without incident, but the moment they arrive at the cobweb-covered estate, freaky things start happening: Auntie (Yôko Minamida) and Blanche, for instance, have met before. The ladies delight in the weirdness, enjoying a meal and exploring the grounds, but then Mac disappears. Auntie and Blanche, meanwhile, find novel ways to entertain themselves. Soon, mirrors are cracking, mattresses are flying, blood is flowing, and a piano goes berserk. There's only so much the girls can do, so they pin their hopes on Tôgô--and his sideburns--to set things right.

House arrives for the first time in the United States with a testimonial from House of the Devil director Ti West, who declares it "one of the most original films I've ever seen"; Emotion, an experimental short; and a featurette in which Obayashi credits his daughter, Chigumi, for several plot points. Fans of Carrie, Suspiria, The Evil Dead, and Pee-Wee's Playhouse: meet your new cinematic obsession. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Aug. 25 2011
Format: DVD
It's official: there is an insane streak in the Japanese that no other country can rival, and it's been there for a LOOOOONG time.

Exhibit A: "House," a low-budget horror movie that seems like the acid-addled love child of a funhouse and a slasher movie. Its biggest failing is that it doesn't really have a plot, and for awhile there it looks like there should have been one -- but rich insanity is what is really fun here, with an evil cat, a carnivorous piano, a butt-biting head and... various other weird things.

Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami) is looking forward to a vacation trip with her dad... but is horrified to find that his creepily cheerful new fiancee will be coming too. So instead, Oshare decides to vacation at her aunt's remote country mansion, along with her friends Fanta (sweet flake), Gari (nerd), Sweet (tidy), Mac (glutton) Melody (musician) and Kung-Fu (do I need to explain this one?).

At first, everything seems pleasant and peaceful for the girls... but then some of the girls go missing. Mac's head is found in the well, Sweet is seemingly swallowed up by the bedding, and Oshare is enspelled by her mysterious old aunt. Will the girls be able to escape before the House eats them alive, or will they be sucked in one by one?

"House" is a crazy, frenetic funhouse ride -- it starts out light, sunny and psychedelic, slowly becomes hilariously gruesome, and turns into a haunting finale on river of Kool-aid blood. I mean, how many movies have a giggling girl being dismembered and eaten by a piano? Or a man becoming bananas... literally? Or single hopping legs doing kung-fu moves? Or a butt-biting disembodied head?

The movie's biggest flaw is that, well, it has no plot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gore DeHow on May 12 2011
Format: DVD
Words are insufficient to describe this Japanese celluloid psychedelic freak out - it has to be seen to be believed. While the story of seven girls who visit a malevolently haunted house and do battle with its evil denizens is familiar to most Japanese people, others will be scratching their heads in wonder. It's not that the plot (yes, there's a plot) is particularly hard to follow, or anything like that, it's just that there has never been a movie like "House". This film is a must-see for any fan of twisted Japanese cinema.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
One of my all time favourite films. Thankfully a remake has never been done. I believe it's one of a kind, and to this day it has never lost it's charm. The booklet included with Blueray was also a nice touch. Highly recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 94 reviews
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
One release I never thought I'd see in my lifetime.. Sept. 16 2010
By ac - Published on
Format: DVD
Criterion is a great company -- arguably, the best DVD releasing company in the world. They are known for standards of excellence that aren't traditionally seen in most other companies' releases; not only in their DVD transfers and special features, but for the consistent high quality of the films they release. Most of the films Criterion release are already well-established, traditional, "classic" films. So, it's always nice to see a somewhat more "obscure" film get the Criterion treatment -- this film definitely deserves it.

While not completely "obscure" -- it's quite well-known in Japan, as well as amongst underground horror and experimental film lovers around the world -- it certainly doesn't seem as, dare I say, "important" as many other Criterion releases. But being the underdog works here, since the film only costs $26 brand new (well below most "big" Criterion film's releases) so it will hopefully motivate more people to check out this work of art.

...YES, a work of art. While touted as a "horror" film, this most resembles an art film, one of the more experimental variety, and it is masterfully-shot and -directed. Utilizing all sorts of outrageous effects and downright bizarre editing, this often brings to mind directors like Shuji Terayama (Emperor Tomato Ketchup) and Toshio Matsumoto (Funeral Procession of Roses). While there are some more straightforward "horror" elements -- skeletons, an evil kitty -- most of them are downright silly, and remind me somewhat of American "classic" b-movie cheesefest Spookies than any serious work of horror. It is NEVER scary, and gets by mainly on absurdity and cheese.

So, why is this film getting 5 stars? Why is it "worthy" of a Criterion release? Well, opinions will differ, but I found this movie absolutely brilliant, one of the most entertaining I have EVER seen, with brilliant scene after brilliant scene of surreal absurdity. This film is downright INSANE, but it's charming. It's one of those films that you'll watch and say, "Okay, I HAVE TO show this to every single one of my friends now!" Infinitely rewatchable (I've probably watched my Japanese copy 20 times in the past 5 years), hilariously madcap, and endlessly inspiring. There is violence here, but it's all so silly... this is about as much a "horror" film as Riki-Oh is a "kung-fu" movie; it has all the "cool" elements of a genre film, but it's really just an excuse to cram as many insane scenes into a film as possible.

Oh, did I mention a piano eats a girl? ... The effects are what really make this film a sight to behold. They're actually surprisingly well-done, and even though I already own this film, I'm going to buy the Criterion edition just to see how they pulled off some of this stuff! Yes, as usual, the Criterion DVD is loaded with great special features, the best of which has to be the 1966 short film "Emotion" -- without a doubt one of the greatest short films ever, and definitely my favorite of the "experimental Japanese New Wave" school (along with the aforementioned Matsumoto and Terayama). Honestly, "Emotion" is even better than the main feature -- how insane is that? This is just one unbelievably value packed release, one that everyone needs!

So, yes, it is a very unlikely Criterion release, but kudos to them for taking a chance with this one. It is a film that needs to be seen -- I can't imagine anyone NOT having a good time with it. And I really hope it sells well, because there just flat-out aren't many DVD companies releasing these kinds of crazy Japanese films anymore, since Tartan folded. Maybe, just maybe, if we're lucky, we'll all be able to see a Pastoral: To Die in the Country (aka "the greatest film ever made") release from Criterion sometime in our lifetimes....? Well, I can dream. But until that day comes, I'll be watching this one about once a month. Order it today!
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Surreal & scary silly Japanese bedtime horror - young girls, ghosts, a haunted house, psychedelic effects & a groovy soundtrack! Aug. 2 2010
By Nathan Andersen - Published on
Format: DVD
Every once in a while you read about a film that it's indescribable and like nothing you've ever seen before. Usually that's hyperbole; it's just a bit offbeat. Not in this case. House (made in 1977) is genuinely like no other film I'd ever seen before, and I loved every minute. The closest in vibe to this film that I've seen is Funky Forest: The First Contact - but that one's all over the place, and lacks the continuity of a single strange story like House. It's surreal horror, a hallucinatory and often hilarious supernatural thriller about Japanese schoolgirls who spend their school vacation visiting the aging aunt of their classmate. This is the kind of film you want to see in theaters if you have a chance - but barring that see it at home, after it's out on dvd, with an open-minded crowd of friends who dig foreign, cult or arthouse films.

Gorgeous, as she's known, is irate that her father has decided to remarry, and so she invites her friends to stay in the aging and empty country house of her aunt rather than go with her father and his fiancee on vacation. We are introduced to each of her friends, all of whom have nicknames that describe their temperament and character: there is the beautiful Gorgeous, there's the apparently dreamy and gullible Fantasy, the brainy Professor, the always hungry Mac, the musical Melody, and so on. Along the way, on a magical train ride in which the animated fantasy background that shines through the windows of the train seems to resemble a film strip, she tells them how her aunt had once loved a man who promised to come for her after the war, but never returned. When they arrive, their aunt seems a bit too eager to see them, and odd remarks lead to inexplicable occurrences, and pretty soon it's over-the-top scary silly supernatural surreal mayhem. The director seems to delight in retro-styled effects and sight gags, using stop motion and many other inventive techniques to create a fantastic realm of visual jokes and horror. Combining live action and animation, the film transcends kitch and schlockiness into a realm of cinematic magic, that draws upon Japanese magical traditions of Yokai and witches and vengeful ghosts, but also evokes the era in which it was made, and appears to be making fun of a certain kind of depiction of youth in cinema. Fun stuff, and exciting to see that Criterion is releasing it (not surprising given that Janus films is supervising the current critically acclaimed theatrical rerelease).

Here's what to expect on the 1-disc Criterion set:
-a new, restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-a video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, story scenarist and daughter of the director Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chiho Katsura
-Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
-a new video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
-the theatrical trailer
-new and improved English subtitle translation
-and an essay by film critic Chuck Stephens
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Uniquely enthralling July 25 2011
By Aaron Wooldridge - Published on
Format: DVD
There is very little I could say about House to do it justice. It is such a unique film that anything I say about it will be misleading. Suffice it to say that in a world where the same movie is remade over and over and over House is something that appears to be completely original. It is also extremely entertaining. I am grateful to the Criterion Collection for bringing this outstanding film to my attention. If you are reading this page then your curiosity is already sparked. If you find yourself interested in watching an extremely absurd and funny horror/art film with great visuals, then you cannot go wrong buying this DVD.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Good Extras for this Highly Unusual and Unique Film! Nov. 5 2010
By Cubist - Published on
Format: DVD
When you first start watching House, you think that you're watching The Partridge Family - The Complete First Season on acid and you wonder when the horror film elements are going appear which really doesn't happen until the girls arrive at auntie's house. Obayashi utilizes all sorts of deliberately cheap special effects, like obvious rear projection and clunky animation but mixes it with sophisticated effects and stunning cinematography to create a heightened sense of the universe. Throw in unpredictable segues to other scenes that have a jarring, unsettling effect and you have a unique film. These schizophrenic tempo changes and an often cartoonish take on horror can be seen in later in the early films of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson but House has them both beat in terms of sheer audacity and unhinged imagery. If you haven't surrendered to House by the time one of the girls is devoured by a piano then this is probably not the film for you. This is a film not to be seen but to be experienced much like Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, another head trip kind of film.

"Emotion" is a 1966 experimental short film made by Obayashi. It displays a lot of the stylistic flourishes still in their infancy and that would surface again in House - these include bizarre segues, hyperactive editing and unusual musical cues.

"House Appraisal" features filmmaker Ti West offering his thoughts on the film. He sees it as being told from the point-of-view of a child. He also comments on the influence of Obayashi's work as a television commercial director. West speaks admiringly of House's originality and contrasts it with lack of creativity in many contemporary horror films.

"Constructing a House" features new interviews with Obayashi, his daughter Chigumi and screenwriter Chiho Katsura as they talk about the film's origins. Obayashi talks about his beginnings making T.V. ads and how they led to making House. Chigumi talks about how visiting her grandparents one summer gave her ideas for the film.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Don't Tear Down This 'House' 'Till You Have a Look Inside... Jan. 22 2011
By 4-Legged Defender - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Normally, I would NEVER even consider watching the bonus supplements or featurettes prior to watching the film itself, for the most obvious reasons - spoilers, hindsight recollections and justifications, and often the BS that those involved in production conjure up several decades after the film was made to make themselves appear more clever and grandiose than was probably the case. By the same token, if I don't enjoy a film, I usually can't be convinced by these features that I'm missing the boat - you either like something or don't, with few exceptions, IMHO. That said, sometimes, as infrequent as it is, when I'm still scratching my head when a flick is over, the bonuses will illuminate and enlighten to the point where I now have received the clarification necessary for me to fully comprehend and enjoy aspects of a film obscured to me for one reason or another. Such is the case with 'House', almost more so than any foreign flick I've ever seen.

When a film is hyped up to be 'all that', my expectations lead me to be only one thing - let down. When you read the Amazon product details as well as the dvd cover description, the promise sounds far too brilliant to be realized, so I decided to do a little research. After reading several website reviews, I felt I was getting farther from the truth instead of closer, so I decided to watch the bonus features before I sat through the actual movie. This is one of the few times when doing so proved to be absolutely essential to my overall viewing experience and ultimate enjoyment of this minor yet remarkable movie. There aren't many spoilers, at least none that would detract from your gratification, and to hear the way the film evolved directly from the mouth of director Nobuhiko Obayashi added the necessary seasonings to appreciate the film for what it is, what it isn't and what the hype tells us it should be. "An episode of 'Scooby-Doo' as directed by Mario Bava"? Puh-leese... I've seen every Bava flick there is and there's no such similarity - maybe Seijun Suzuki is who they meant. (By way of Tim Burton, but now I'm adding to the hype...).

By the time I actually sat through the film itself, I had a better understanding of what this film actually was, and could judge it on its own merits, budgetary and special effect restraints, constraints and sheer brilliance in execution and concept alone. As a result, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this anomaly in film from the 70's without reserve and would strongly suggest to anyone remotely interested in this film to do likewise - you won't be sorry you did.

(PS- The bonus 1966 experimental film is another added treat of sorts, and viewing it in advance will also increase your appreciation of the main feature).

A solid four star film I'm adding one star to for its sheer originality, and to make up for some of its unwarranted detractors here on Amazon. You want different? You got it!