Get Stoned and Watch This Movie – Hausu (1977)
We’re all familiar with the quintessential 4/20 flicks, but what happens when the Pineapple Express makes a stop in uncharted cinema territory? Let’s find out.
Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (commonly referred to as Hausu) not only makes silver screen dreams come true, but brings us moments in film that we never knew we wanted to see. Have you ever wished a horror flick had a bouncy 70s theme song? Ever wished your favorite schoolgirl coming-of-age story featured a watermelon more prominently? Wanna see a piano eat someone? Well, fire up your Hulu and blaze up your headspace, because this Criterion Collection select delivers.
Most characters in Hausu are only referred to by nicknames identifying their personality archetype. The main seven girls consist of Gorgeous (the vain one with the most screentime), Fantasy (the daydreamer), Sweet (the sweet one), Melody (the musical one), Kung Fu (the strong one), Mac (the hungry one), and Prof (the one with the glasses). Gorgeous learns that her father is remarrying and feels that he has betrayed her and her late mother, so she invites her friends to visit her aunt in the countryside for the summer. After that, she writes her aunt a letter to ask if that’s cool.
So the girls take the train to go visit Gorgeous’s aunt and Gorgeous reveals that her aunt lost a lover in WWII. After a long journey where they literally hike through the woods, the friends get directions from a creepy watermelon salesman and arrive at the house. Right away, the aunt and her cat Blanche (like the Golden Girl) are creepy as hell and Kung Fu saves Sweet from a killer chandelier.
If you’re worried that any part of Hausu has been spoiled for you so far, don’t be. Between the iMovie-esque scene transitions, nonsensical dialogue and character rationale, and the overwhelming cuteness in even the film’s goriest moments, there isn’t a single moment of Hausu that falls short on stimuli. By the time one of the girls is actually eaten by a piano on-screen, it almost feels logical.
While developing Hausu, Obayashi called upon his pre-teen daughter to discuss ideas and develop the script, believing that adults lacked the ability to think beyond that “boring human level” and “come up with things that can’t be explained.” Japan’s involvement in the Second World War, specifically the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the director lost all of his childhood friends, also play a major thematic role in establishing backstory. This sadness, rather than deflating the mood, acts as an emotional tightrope as the viewer sways between fearing for the girls’ lives and watching a cat play the piano.
Though initial reception of the film was mostly negative, Hausu received positive reviews in North America following a wide re-release in 2009. Maybe modern Americans are emotionally removed enough from WWII and therefore more apt to navigate through the genre-blending themes with the clarity of hindsight. Maybe the work of later directors like Sam Raimi or Takashi Miike have paved the way for Hausu to be taken seriously not in light of its shortcomings, but because of them. Or maybe, just maybe, a lot more people are getting high nowadays.
Watch it on: Hulu as of 10/12/16
How high: Get as faded as you want, but don’t be in a distracting environment.
“Netflix and chill” potential: Probably better to watch solo or with friends unless you’ve found your weirdo soulmate.
Also good without weed?: Def rewatch it with a clear head, the special effects alone will probably make you feel high again.