A few weeks ago I went down to The Pacific Cinematheque (one of my favourite haunts) to check out House (Hausu). I didn’t know what to expect, other than that it had become a cult classic in Japan. To this day I am not sure if anything could have truly prepared me for the insanity that awaited. The story follows a group of 7 school girls on their summer holiday. The lead protagonist, Gorgeous, (each girl is named after a ruling personality attribute ie. Prof, Kung Fu and Fantasy) convinces the girls to come visit her aunt out in the country who she hasn’t seen since her childhood. Unfortunately her aunt is haunted by the memory of her lost lover, and has since become a malevolent spirit in possession of a demonic cat, a sinister house and a ravenous hunger for young girls. Gorgeous and company soon learn after the mysterious disappearance of some of their group, that they’ll have to rely on their wits and individual strengths to discover the secrets of the house if they want to make it through the night alive. House is completely deranged, and I do mean that in the most complimentary sense. Released in Japan in 1977, it only began to be distributed in North America in 2009. House fuses genres, taking a typical horror storyline and turning it on its ear, combining it with comedy and melodrama. Part soap opera, part paranoid delusion, House makes ample use of wind machines, vaseline on the lens gauzy effects and stage blood. One of House’s strongest points is that it takes ideas that are genuinely creepy and pushes them over the edge to comic absurdism. Furthermore, the experimental effects utilized by director and producer Nobuhiko Obayashi are hands down the highlight of this film and maximize its surreal impact. Nobuhiko Obayashi reportedly wanted to achieve an unrealistic look and makes use of paint, animation, and over the top stage gore. Not willing to compromise his vision, Nobuhiko uses these effects to bring his audience memorable images of murderous pianos and renegade lamp shades. It is honestly difficult to find a flaw in this film, since I believe that every element contributes to the overall feeling. While the acting is amateur and over the top (Obayashi used mainly non-actors) and the dialogue inane I feel that it all just adds to the experience of Obayashi’s funhouse. This film is not for everybody, but for anyone who wants to let go of all sense of reason and just have fun for an hour and a half, House provides a surreal and ridiculous dreamscape, and it’s well worth it.
Category Archives: Horror
Horror and sci-fi fans alike rejoiced with the 1986 release of The Fly, a remake of the 1958 horror classic. David Cronenberg both directed and wrote this reimagining, fusing together his usual cocktail of techo-paranoia and body horror. The Fly begins at a science convention, with writer Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife (played by Geena Davis) hitting it off with scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum). He quickly lures her off to his lab where she soon discovers that Seth is no ordinary lab rat, but rather a certified genius on his way to creating the world’s first teleportation device. Ronnie is desperate to write a story on him and brings her idea to her editor, ex-boyfriend and borderline stalker creep, Stathis Boran, who is quick to dismiss Seth, assuming his work is an elaborate hoax. Undeterred Ronnie works out a deal with Seth to follow the progress of his work and create a book about the project. All seems to be going well in their professional and personal relationship until Seth unwittingly turns his teleportation device into a gene-splicer. Seth’s transformation into “Brundle-fly” is simultaneously repulsive and tragic. In the end, Cronenberg creates a film that delivers both the grotesque scenes befitting any of his early body horror films and a critique on man’s use and abuse of technology and nature.
Although a little corny at times I really do love this film (and not just because I worship the Altar of Cronenberg). First, Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis have fantastic chemistry. They were married shortly after The Fly was released so it’s safe to assume their onscreen romance was fuelled by off-screen passion. Davis handles her character with intelligence and avoids becoming another simple female horror drone. Goldblum is of course the star of the show, spewing frenetic energy in the role he plays so well, that of the rambling smart and somehow sexy scientist (yes, he is still able to pull off sexy in this film despite the terrible hair and various states of decay). Cronenberg is able to create a relatively smart sci-fi horror. He questions mankind’s drive to push technology to its limits and manipulate nature. In his films this manipulation always tends to lead to some unpleasant mishap, as seen in The Fly where Jeff Goldblum experiences the consequences of his failed experiment as a wasting disease. Whether you want to ponder the message of this film or just revel in the fantastic gore (it didn’t win an Academy Award for Makeup for nothing…) The Fly delivers on every level.
Splice is Vincenzo Natali’s delightful and disturbing concoction of science, absurd humour, dark sex and of course a monster. An update of Frankenstein in the era of genetic manipulation, Splice takes us into the lives of Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) who are the rockstars of the scientific world. The film begins with them having spliced together pink sluglike blobs named Fred and Ginger from whom they can harvest proteins for the pharmaceutical company funding their experiments. When Clive and Elsa try to request funding for a project that involves splicing human DNA into their creatures they are quickly shut down. Not easily deterred Clive and Elsa decide to go ahead with their project in secret and in a series of escalating dares and temptations, they allow their creature, Dren, to grow into a big problem.
The film had its ups and downs and although the conclusion proved to be a little absurd it ends up going down easy as Natali navigates his audience through strange terrain, all the while maintaining a healthy balance of disturbing plots twists and dark humour. It is able to tackle issues such as genetic manipulation, cloning and definitions of humanity with varying degrees of success. The film’s more unsettling elements spoke to the Cronenberg lover within and had me squirming in delight. Natali’s inclusion of quirky jokes and absurdist situations allows viewers to settle in for an amusing, albeit dark ride. The real element that works in the film is Brody and Polley’s chemistry. Each handles their character with a dark intensity and is able to breathe life into their onscreen relationship in a very believable way. Another definite highlight in this film was the creature, Dren. Created with an almost seamless blend of makeup and CG, Dren is a fascinating and simultaneously skin crawling sight to behold. Dren’s ‘not quite human’ existence is the moral centerpoint of the whole film and serves as a stunning example of what can happen when moral judgements get blurred and situations slip beyond our control.
Although Splice is entertaining and perhaps one of the most creative films in recent years it definitely will not be everyones cup of tea. The film rests firmly in the science fiction/moral parable genre and is not a typical horror film . However, what this film lacks in scares and suspense it more than makes up for in its disturbing storyline which puts an innovative twist on a classic tale.