How to describe the indescribable? A slew of critics, slain by Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 House, take up the challenge.
Stuart Galbraith IV writes for DVD Talk that the funky film is “like a cross between Dario Argento’s Suspiria and an episode of The Monkees. Though generally regarded as a horror film, it’s also a teen fantasy/kung fu/erotic coming-of-age/splatter/comedy—Jan Švankmajer meets Pink Lady.” Paper’s Dennis Dermody says it’s “like Suspiria meetsScooby-Doo.” New York’s Vulture uses different reference points, claiming it “manages to out-weird any David Lynch effort and even bests El Topo in terms of surrealism.” (From there, the site introduces a slide show of “ten of the strangest moments from the world’s oddest horror film.”)
For the Los Angeles Times, Dennis Lim praises House as “one of the most enduringly—and endearingly—weird cult movies of the past few decades,” remarking that it “has some affinities with the work of Italian ‘giallo’ schlockmeisters Dario Argento and Mario Bava, and it anticipates the wackier experiments of Japanese genre-benders such as Takashi Miike.” But then again, “it might be more apt to consider its lineage in relation to Obayashi’s dual background in experimental film and commercials.” Tony Rayns concurs, for Artforum: “Virtually every shot contains an effect or visual trope, and Obayashi drew on both his early experiments with animation and film language and his vast experience in making sixty-second ads to craft the images. At feature length, this adds up to a sensory barrage of a kind rarely attempted in cinema.”
Of course, the horror devotees are also out in full force for House, including Cinefantastique (“Stunning . . . It channels a unique, dreamlike quality”), Bloody Disgusting (“Quickly working its way onto my list of all-time favorite horror films”), and Fangoria (“Truly special . . . If you dare even consider yourself a fan or student of cinema, or are remotely interested in being affected by a movie, you must get your hands on House”).
Alonso Duralde for Movieline throws up his hands: “Words, frankly, can’t do justice to this loopy and spooky Japanese import. Get the right kind of friends over for the night and take the plunge together.”