So, there's a really great movie out now, directed by a guy known for making innovative TV commercials, that's about a vengeful supernatural being with a grudge who torments teenagers with surrealistic nightmare images.
No, Padawan! I'm not talking about Samuel Bayer's rancid new A Nightmare on Elm Street remake/regurgitation, I'm talking about Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 medulla-stomping masterpiece House (aka Hausu), now in limited release after its WTF! trailer burned up the Internet.
Yes, House is surreal. But this isn't the kind of dark and creepy surrealism you see in David Lynch movies, or the glitzy, slo-mo kind of surrealism you see in music videos, or the edgy kind of surrealism you see classics like Un Chien Andalu. Nope! The surrealism of House is a giddy blend of children's storybook images and colors, Krafft-Ebbing levels of sexual frustration and a nice healthy dose of profoundly untreatable mental illness.
It's almost irrelevant that the "plot" of House concerns giggling Japanese schoolgirls Gorgeous (who's really pretty!), Fantasy (who's prone to imagining things!), Sweet (who's very sweet!), Prof (who's really smart and wears glasses!), Melody (who loves music!), Kung Fu (who's into martial arts!) and Mac (who eats a lot!) going on a summer holiday at Gorgeous' aunt's house in the countryside with their dreamy science teacher, Mr. Togo, who drives a bitchin' vintage dune buggy that would've been Brian Wilson's dream ride in 1965. It's almost irrelevant because "plot" implies something that might be limited to concerns like "cause" and "effect" and "reason" ... which are puny things that have no place in Nobuhiko Obayashi's retina-melting sensibility.
Yes, the fact that Gorgeous' Auntie has sinister plans for the girls links set pieces like flying decapitated heads biting people on the ass and ecstatic post-cannibalistic bliss expressed through Leonard-Pinth-Garnell-worthy piano counterpoints accompanied by meowing from a sinister feline that sounds like "Jingle Cats." But don't expect the sequence of these fever dreams to make much sense, any more than you would expect the physics of a Bugs Bunny cartoon to make much sense. House puts you utterly at the mercy of Nobuhiko Obayashi's out-of-control vision, from the hyper-sped-up fantasy sequences imagined by the girl named Fantasy to the constant use of wipes and irises to the Dario Argento color palette to the pre-MTV, seizure-inducing editing patterns.
This isn't a cinematic world in which a climax is followed by a totally irrelevant shot of Mr. Togo eating noodles. It's a cinematic world in which a climax is followed by a totally irrelevant shot of Mr. Togo eating noodles surrounded by weird-looking guys eating noodles by shaking their heads like dogs as they exclaim "MMmMmMMmMmmMMMMM! GOOD NOODLES!" and splattering bits of udon around. Gorgeous' dad's new girlfriend can't just wear a pretty white scarf. The scarf has to be really long and frilly and constantly blowing around her like a figment out of an undead Isadora Duncan revenge fantasy. Gorgeous can't just go sulk in her room when Dad brings home his hot new girlfriend ("She's surprisingly good at cooking!" Dad enthuses). She has to go to her room and do a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman spin into a new set of clothes in front of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. Nobuhiko Obayashi's grip on the dementia is absolute, and you're obliged to just go along for the ride because he earns that level of trust through the boldness of his violation of every law of filmmaking restraint.
More disturbing than Nobuhiko Obayashi's horror-movie sensibilities (which include not just the sight of a girl being devoured by a piano, but the sight of a girl being devoured by a piano shot through a fishbowl) are his children's-TV-show sensibilities. House features moments that suggest a 1970s Romper Room directed by Chuckie Manson. For no good reason, a moment in which a character is incapacitated by a steel bucket clamped to his ass takes place in a satanic version of the Zoobilee Zoo set, with bright colors and avuncular background characters like "Mr. Painter" and "Mr. Shoemaker." The movie is peppered with the fakest-looking Sid and Marty Krofft backdrops this side of Living Island. There are Willy Wonka-like matte paintings that look like Woodstock acid casualty art therapy projects done in Crayola.
In a world as deliciously broken and warped as that of House, the utter nonsense of the movie creates its own anti-logic, through which lovable tomboy Kung Fu can engage in an epic battle with demonic kindling and shrug it off as "Probably just an illusion!" Death by futon becomes plausible. And never in the history of horror film has the word "Banana" become such an emblem of loss and tragedy.
House is a work of genius, infusing the look of Maurice Binder's glowing 1960s James Bond credit sequences with classic Freddy Krueger sadism. This movie isn't just as "WTF" as its trailer. It is the "WTF"-i-est feature ever made.