Film Review: House/Hausu (1977)

This is probably the most surreal horror film I’ve watched this October, and may be the most surreal horror film I will ever watch.

House is a film that almost entirely operates on dream – or in particular, nightmare logic. The premise of the film is that a group of high school friends go to the house of one of their aunts on summer vacation, because their planned retreat has been canceled and because the mother of their de-facto leader, nicknamed Gorgeous, is unhappy because her father is remarrying. Except the house of the Aunt is haunted, and tries to pick them off one at a time.

This is not particularly a film you can “spoil”, because what makes this film unique is its truly bizarre visuals, with special effects that are deliberately meant to look cheesy, and a plot that doesn’t particularly have any logical cohesion, because the plot was written by the director and his school-age daughter, with the idea that anything scary an adult comes up with will be neutered because adults have to make something that makes logical sense, but kids don’t have that problem. It’s the Axe Cop principle applied to horror.

It works – sort of. There are a lot of creepy moments in the film, but because the cast is predominantly non-actors, some of them aren’t exactly played right (one scene that would otherwise be terrifying gets dull surprise in response, before getting the correct response when things escalate). This leads to a film that tap dances back and forth on the line between spooky and spoopy. I’d say this is something to keep under wraps to preserve the surprise, but there’s no real way in text to explain it – but it think it is worth knowing about this advance so you don’t go in expecting something like The Ring and end up finding yourself disappointed.

House is currently available on on DVD & Blu-Ray (with a Criterion Collection release), and on Amazon Instant.