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A schoolgirl 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.
For more about House and the House Blu-ray release, see House Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba, Ai Matsubara, Mieko Satô, Eriko Tanaka
Director: Nobuhiko Ohbayashi
» See full cast & crew
House Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 15, 2010
Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi's "Hausu" a.k.a "House" (1977) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include "Emotion" (1966), an experimental short film by Nobuhiko Obayashi; interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, his daughter and story scenarist Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chino Katsura; interview with American director Ti West; and the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 28-page illustrated booklet. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Earlier this year I saw a very unusual film called RoboGeisha. The film is directed by Japanese helmer Noboru Iguchi, who in 2006 did an interesting remake of Yasuzo Masumura's Manji. Iguchi also directed a film called The Machine Girl, which generated plenty of buzz on a couple of different forums that follow closely contemporary Japanese cinema.
RoboGeisha is about a gang of beautiful Geisha assassins recruited by a shady businessman and his son who are on a mission to take over the world. These beautiful assassins have machine breasts, butt-blades, and all sorts of other weapons attached to their bodies, which they use to kill in some very unusual ways. That is it. I just described to you what the entire film is about. What I would like to add is that during the years I've seen plenty of weird films, but nothing quite like RoboGeisha. This film really is in a league of its own.
Having just seen Nobuhiko Obayashi's cult House, I must speculate that the director of RoboGeisha was probably a big fan of it. Though House is not as graphic as RoboGeisha, it is just as weird. Actually, weird does not even begin to describe what takes place in House. This film is just plain crazy.
Here's the plot: A girl (Kimiko Ikegami, The Geisha) invites six of her best friends on a relaxing trip to her aunt's (Yoko Minamida, Samurai no ko) house somewhere in the Japanese countryside. Once they get there, however, all hell breaks loose - the aunt goes berserk and evil spirits begin chasing the girls. Even a crazy white cat joins the party. The house also comes alive and heads start rolling.
There is a long and very interesting interview with director Obayashi on Criterion's Blu-ray release of House in which he discusses the socio-political conditions in Japan during the 60s and the effect the boom of TV programming had on Japanese cinema. According to director Obayashi, at the time many of the country's established filmmakers who had contracts with Toho and Toei were asked to shoot TV commercials, but they rejected the offers, allowing an entirely new generation of "amateurs" who accepted them to be noticed. Director Obayashi was amongst them.
House does have the look and feel of an unusually long TV commercial. It is fast, loud, and in-your-face type of film that assaults one's senses in a variety of different ways. Indeed, its beauty - so long as one does not question the film's complete lack of logic - is in its ability to overwhelm with style.
Most critics who have written about House insist that it is a horror film, but I would argue that it is a lot more. House is too funny, too sad, too much everything to be described as a typical horror film. An experimental Japanese pop film is perhaps a much more accurate description.
In addition to all the incredible special effects, which director Obayashi was in charge with, House also boasts a fittingly remarkable music score courtesy of Asei Kobayashi and Micky Yoshino. The main theme is beautiful and at the same time incredibly disturbing.
Note: In 1978, House won a Blue Ribbon Award for Best New Director (Nobuhiko Obayashi).
House Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Nobuhiko Obayashi's House arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm low-contrast print struck from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Joe Gawler/Technicolor, New York."
This is a strong high-definition transfer. Fine object detail is very, clarity pleasing, and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. The color-scheme is beautiful; wonderful soft reds, blues, greens, yellows, browns, and blacks give House a terrific psychedelic look. Edge enhancement is not a serious issue of concern; neither is macroblocking. There are no traces of heavy noise reduction either; the film's grain structure is very much intact. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. When blown through a digital projector, the image conveys pleasing depth and natural tightness. Lastly, I did not see any serious compressions artifacts, or large scratches, debris, marks, stains, etc. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
House Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from an optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation."
The Japanese LPCM 1.0 track is solid. Though its dynamic amplitude is limited, the sound has pleasing depth and clarity. The dialog is clean, stable, and very easy to follow. There are no serious balance issues with Asei Kobayashi and Micky Yoshino's haunting music score either. Lastly, the English translation is indeed very good.
House Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Emotion - an experimental short film by Nobuhiko Obayashi about a young girl who falls in love with a vampire. Emotion was filmed in 1966. In Japanese and English, with optional English subtitles. (40 min, 1080i).
Constructing a House - director Nobuhiko Obayashi, his daughter and story scenarist Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chino Katsura discuss the production history of House, its unusual story, and Japanese cinema (classic and contemporary). The interviews were recorded in 2010. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (46 min, 1080p).
House appraisal - filmmaker Ti West (The House of the Devil) talks about how bizarre Nobuhiko Obayashi's House is. In English, not subtitled. (4 min, 1080p).
Trailer - the original theatrical trailer for the film. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (2 min, 1080p).
Booklet - 28-page illustrated booklet containing Chuck Stephens' essay "The Housemaidens" (the author lives and teaches in Nashville, Tennessee).
House Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One has to be in a very particular mood when watching Nobuhiko Obayashi's House to fully appreciate what the film has to offer. So, prepare yourself. As expected, Criterion's treatment of House is very impressive. Their Blu-ray disc also contains a very interesting interview with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, his daughter and story scenarist Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chino Katsura, which I urge you to find the time to see. RECOMMENDED.
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