For Halloween Viewing: The Power of Love – Sweet, and Sad, and Strangely Destructive
And what did you see at the movies on Halloween? For me, with a screen time beginning at 11:59 last night at the IU Cinema, the midnight showing for All Hallow’s Eve was a strange one, the 1977 Japanese film HAUSU. And yes, it means “house.” It’s an “evil house” movie, but with a big difference. This one combines the expected tropes with a weird undercurrent of surrealism, including cartoons, a demon cat, telegraphed punches — all clearly intentional — even slapstick humor in a tale of seven schoolgirls’ summer outing at the home of one of the girls’ maiden aunt. An aunt she hadn’t seen since her grandmother’s funeral years in the past.
But the past stretched further. Auntie, it seems, had loved a man during World War II who had promised to come back — but never did. And since then, with the exception of Auntie, the village seems to have become bereft of unmarried young women (it does, however, possess a creepy male watermelon seller who points the way to Auntie’s over-large house). That is, until now.
There was no docent to explain the movie. It is what it is. The program notes say, in part: “Too absurd to be genuinely terrifying, yet too nightmarish to be merely comic, HOUSE seems like it was beamed to Earth from another planet. Or perhaps the mind of a child: the director Nobuhiko Obayashi fashioned the script after the eccentric musings of his 11-year-old daughter, then employed all the tricks in his analog arsenal (mattes, animation, and collage) to make them a visually astonishing, raucous reality. Contains graphic content, including violence and nudity.” I say if you don’t mind wackiness with your surrealism, nor mind an ending that masks its horror with sweetness and sadness — and even a philosophic note on the persistence of love — I recommend HAUSU.