Sunday, March 19, 2017


House is a film that seems to set out to defy all attempts at categorization or even comprehension.

If you were to imagine a version of Evil Dead directed by Luis Buñuel using overly-colorized sets from H. R. Pufnstuf... from the point of view of a half-dozen Japanese schoolgirls that are simultaneously having the same nightmare about it... that is House.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. This movie has a lot of interesting history so I'll need to back up a bit.

In the mid-70's, after emerging from an art group that included the likes of Yoko Ono, a lifelong film-experimenter by the name of Nobuhiko Obayashi was working as a director of strangely avant-garde television commercials. After a few of these...

One of his most famous series of commercials starred Charles Bronson for Mandom cologne.

...he managed to catch the eye of Nagaharu Yodogawa, a journalist, who wrote "If Obayashi can make such TV commercials, he should be able to make Japanese films more exciting." Only a year later, Obayashi was approached by Toho Studios about trying to make a film "as exciting as Jaws," and he was finally given a chance to make his first commercial feature.

After his initial meeting however, Obayashi found that he didn't really want to go in the direction the studio was hoping for at all. He just couldn't find any artistic appeal in trying to make some sort of man-eating animal Jaws clone like they were suggesting. When he got home afterward he found his 13 year-old daughter Chigumi brushing her hair in front of a mirror, so he asked her what she thought about his predicament. Her reply was, "If my reflection in the mirror could jump out and eat me, that'd be scary." Obayashi knew she was onto something altogether different than Jaws, so he immediately followed that by asking what else she thought might be scary. Her reply? "I love playing theme tunes on the piano after watching the films, but I can't play as well as you dad... and it feels as if the keys are biting my fingers."

Pictured: Not Jaws. I think we're onto something...

Later, while visiting relatives in the country, Nobuhiko and Chigumi retrieved a watermelon from a well, split it open with a cleaver and ate it. Afterwards Chigumi remarked, "As the watermelon came out of the well, it looked like it was a smiling head and it was scary."

Pictured: Also not Jaws

The story's generation proceeded along those lines until what emerged was a strange fantasy about a group of girls who go to stay for a while in a house belonging to one girl's widowed aunt... who's a cannibal... and can possess the house itself to make it do her bidding.

Also, this cat's involved.

Now just in case those glowing eyes were a little too subtle for the viewer to pick up on, the film goes out of its way to rationally explain why this is a paranormal cat...

Anyway, the aunt/house proceeds to try "eating" the girls and has some degree of success. The pretty girl's face shatters and falls off, men are reduced to skeletons and/or piles of bananas (in a scene I couldn't even begin to describe), and eventually we find ourselves at a climax that must include every crazy camera effect Obayashi had available to him. That clip is long enough to shows how the movie resolves the little haunted-house problem: at the last minute disembodied legs kick a painting of the cat, which kills the cat, which kills the aunt... Now at this point I'm sure the more logically minded readers are thinking, "Wait, wouldn't that cause the room to fill with cat's blood?"

Well yes... yes it would.

As strange as all of this might have been, as it turned out this was the first time in Japanese history that a film studio had been willing to risk getting behind a filmmaker that wasn't one of their contracted employee-directors, so, whatever Obayashi produced, it was very important that it be well-received. Luckily for Obayashi and the rest of Japan's stranger filmmakers, it was a huge success... The industry was changed and actual film-making was now a realistic ambition for Japanese artists with crazy movie ideas everywhere.

Visually, House is an hour and a half of interesting-looking and historically significant art. As strange as the images we see are, it's obvious that every single thing in the film was specifically intended to look exactly as it does.

I think the trailer said it right by introducing this film as: A FEAR TOO BEAUTIFUL TO RESIST! If you're as interested in not resisting as I am, tour dates for screenings are posted on the Janus Janus site. DVD and Blu-Ray are available on Amazon.

Note: As for the title, House seems to usually be referred to as the Japanese word, "Hausu." The English word "House" is used as the actual title on even the original Japanese promo artwork... so I'll be sticking with that.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wrong Subtitles: Galaxy of Rabbits

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wrong Subtitles: Recalsablanca

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


RoboGeisha is a collaboration between Noboru Iguchi and special effects man Yoshihiro Nishimura (i.e., the director of Tokyo Gore Police and co-director of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl).

With a team like that you sort of know what to expect going into this one... but as with their other titles, knowing the sorts of things you can expect does not mean that everything you're about to see isn't still going to be completely mind-blowing.

The story opens by introducing us to Yoshie (Aya Kiguchi) and her older sister Kikue (Hitome Hasebe, Battle Royale II).

Kikue is a an ambitious geisha while Yoshie is her supposedly "uglier" younger sister who is basically just a servant in the house where Kikue works. Kikue is hoping to impress the young head of Kageno Steel, but as it turns out he actually prefers Yoshie... So of course the conflict between the sisters just escalates rapidly from this point on.

Both girls eventually end up at the young guy's rural home, which is where he's apparently been essentially kidnapping and brainwashing young girls into a personal army of cyborg ninja geisha assassins.

The girls begin training there and competing for success as assassins. This quickly leads to both of them getting mechanical enhancements of their own and it's here that things really take a turn for the wacky.

Exhibit 1: Killer socks

Exhibit 2: Breast-cannons

And, last but not least,
Exhibit 3: Ass-shurikens.

Apparently Iguchi was asked to tone down the violence and gore a bit for this one, so the weapons are a bit more ridiculous and cartoony than usual, and all blood effects are done in CGI. CGI blood almost never looks good... or even remotely passable... and this case is certainly no different, but then the silly cartoon blood is not exactly pulling you out of an otherwise believably realistic scenario, so it bothered me less than I expected it to.

Yoshie eventually emerges as the top "clockwork cortesan" and at this point decides to abandon the robogeishas in order to stop the evil steel corporation and save Japan from them.

With a name like Yoshie, this understandably has to happen by way of a Mario Kart battle.

The final showdown, the climax of the movie's absurdity, is a battle between Tank-Yoshie and a robotic building with an atomic bomb necklace, during which blood spurts from destroyed bystander-buildings in a way that it absolutely should have been doing in monster movies since the very beginning.

If you're a fan of the sort of surreal absurdist gore that's come from Noburu Iguchi in the past, you're likely to enjoy RoboGeisha. Even if you've been hesitant to see the more extreme things like Tokyo Gore Police, this is a pretty tame introduction to his style. While the premise does start to stretch a bit thin at times, overall I still really had a lot of fun with this one.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Larry Blamire Announces 3rd "Lost Skeleton" Film

Larry Blamire has just announced that he is starting on a 3rd entry into the Lost Skeleton chronicles, titled "The Lost Skeleton Walks Among Us."

While Blamire has spoken against chaining a bunch sequels onto a franchise, he also seems to be a fan of great ideas, so for now I'll just trust him on this one.

More info as it becomes available...

I sleep now!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best Worst Movie Released on DVD

If you missed out on the excellent and award-winning documentary, Best Worst Movie, as it toured across the country, now's your chance to fix that.

You might not expect the stories of the creators and cast of Troll 2 to be extremely interesting and engaging, and if that's the case, you'd be wrong.

While it may not mean much to say that Best Worst Movie is better than Troll 2, it's definitely true. Be sure to not let this one pass you by.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm always amazed at just how many Gremlins "inspired" movies came out of this period. At some point people figured out that when you make your monsters the size of children and kind of cute, you can make them appeal to a much wider audience than your run of the mill creature-feature. Gremlins proved this to great effect in 1984 and a year later, Ghoulies proved that this was indeed a winning formula. After a few Ghoulies sequels, the guys behind that film decided to try something with a fantasy angle, and what we ended up with was Troll.

I'll do my best to run through the odd plot quickly. As I recall, Troll is a Harry Potter fan-fiction about a time in the 80's when a middle-aged man named Harry Potter (Michael Moriarty) moves his family into a new apartment building.

As it turns out, the building's full of little singing monsters...

...and naked Julia-Louis Dreyfuses... it doesn't really turn out to be a smooth transition for anyone involved.

Luckily, Potter's son, Harry "Atreju" Potter Jr. drops by to save the day with his golden spear and the help of Eunice, his elderly accomplice... but only after he gets beaten up by a little girl.

Pictured: Action-heroes

If that sounds awesome, it's because it is. Troll turns out to be much better than it has any right to be. The main reason is the great ensemble cast and the array of truly likable characters that they manage to portray here. I find most child actors to be almost unbearably bad, and the two kids are actually the main characters here, but these guys really do a fine job.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus appears here in her first feature-film role, as "pretty girl living in apartment" but does a great job of making her background character real in a way that a lesser film (especially in this genre) wouldn't have bothered to do.

The villain is played ably by Phil Fondacaro, to the extent that he can express anything at all using only body language... but Fondacaro actually pulls double-duty here and also plays the role of Malcolm, a dwarf with cancer, in a tragic side-story.

The character of Torok the troll is taken in an interesting direction. He's not played for straight-comedy like the Leprechaun, but he's not really scary either... he just is. The only real conflict is that he and all the tenants of the apartment building must share the same space, but require different environments. The movie seems to go out of its way to make him not be scary actually... But since he does go ahead and turn people into trolls (or things that would better fit in troll-world), and that's probably a bad thing for those involved, the movie takes several measures to redeem him afterward. First he turns Malcolm into an elf in order to cure his illnesses and give him a chance at a life where he can be normal. As if that wasn't enough, when the time comes for Harry Potter Jr. to kill the giant monster at the end (and he fails), Torok goes ahead and kills him for him... thereby defeating himself. If that doesn't make any sense to you, don't worry, there's an easy explanation. At some point Torok must have simply decided that it would be easier to get a fresh set of clothes, change his name to Hoggle, and head out to the Labyrinth to work for David Bowie.

Really, is there a difference?

One last thing that I almost forgot is the troll chorus. It was composed by Richard Band, brother of the producers, but this whimsical tune could've easily come from Danny Elfman.

Troll is always more fun than I remember it being, and it's probably tame enough to be appropriate for even the youngest kids.

As an added bonus, the only DVD version I've ever come across is a double-feature disc that also includes the completely unrelated but wonderfully awful, Troll 2.