Deception is a tricky thing. Then again, to be deceptively simple also requires some sort of weird ethereal sleight of hand that is neither here, nor there. Ahhh…we find ourselves awash in a deluge of ersatz clichés, and that is never our intent, is it?
Of course not. So when one thinks of a basic Japanese horror film premise, circa 1977, featuring some fairly groovy music, one expects some dated piece of shit, no? Well, not exactly. And certainly not in the case of the little house of oddness we have come to investigate in this edition of Hidden Flick, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu.
It is important to know a few essential things about Obayashi. One, he came from an experimental film and television advertising background, meaning he was used to capturing surreal imagery in a brief moment in time, regardless of its linear clarity. Who the fuck cares about a story when you can shock someone’s psyche instead. There was the avant-garde, and then there was Obayashi. Two, he knew how to use film to make a film, which could also be a comment on the nature of Japanese ghost stories in general, the horror genre, the beckoning blockbuster mentality in the wake of the ultra-popular Jaws, and that if you went completely over-the-top with special effects done in a clever and cheap way, one may be able to get away with it if presented with style and chutzpah.
READ ON for more on this week’s Hidden Flick…
Finally, and most importantly, at least from my ridiculously skewed and twisted point of view, Obayashi seems to be a Head. The man’s film appears to have dropped acid, taken the process of making the film away from the writer, producer, director, and cast, and tripped out on a cosmic kung fu skullfuck like a slasher version of Apocalypse Now. Only this time, it is young maidens who are sacrificed in the end, and not a water buffalo.
Music has a clear and sublime motif in the film, and, again, it is a testament to Obayashi’s hepcat “shit, why don’t we have this weird band play some tunes in this thing” vibe that he is able to insert this sort of spacey and trippy acid pop without missing a beat in his rather bizarre tale of ghosts and animation run amuck. The film travels along at its own unique pace with special effects neither attempting to get the viewer to suspend disbelief or confirm credibility. Hausu HAPPENS, and you can either take what is going down, sifting through amazing image after strange image, all done through the thoroughly warped third eye of Obayashi, or you can’t. My guess is that if one is looking for hidden cinematic treasure, this is one film that is too much eye and ear candy to miss.
Deception IS a tricky thing, but to be weird means you must be hiding something, right? Obayashi gets extra kudos for taking quite a critical beating when Hausu came out. Little did many cinephiles realize how much his ideas of animated weirdness mixed with a rather distorted tale of horror and humor and shit hot weirdo scenes would become so de rigueur in the video wasteland of the 1980s, before his vision of what a film could really say and how one could stretch the limits of multi-dimensional imagery would endure into the 21st century. When the lights go down, minds should open up. And they do here.