Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu

Digital effects can be wonderful but they aren’t a substitute for good old-fashioned creativity, as evidenced by the pre-digital era visual delights of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu (House). This 1977 Japanese film mixed live-action with animation and visual effects in ways that are still striking. If the clip above leaves you wanting more, try downloading the entire film on this blog. Prior to making his mainstream film debut, Obayashi was an independent filmmaker. A mid-’60s experimental work he created called Emotion can be seen on this website.

(Thanks, Christy Karacas)


  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com John Paul Cassidy

    Toho helped produce and distribute this film, so it has already piqued my interest. I’ve heard about it for years, and thought the trailer was pretty bizarre and scary!

    Obayashi also did a lesser-known film in 1987, THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM (which I haven’t seen, but one favorite reviewer of mine, the late Guy Mariner Tucker, didn’t like it).

  • http://goldenagecartoons.com Matthew Hunter

    -whimper- Mommy? I’m scared….

  • http://palais.wikidot.com Jordan Scott

    That latter film seems to be based on this comic: http://www.vizmedia.com/products/products.php?series_id=463

    As a general rule, single feature films based on series of books with more than ten volumes don’t tend to work very well. But on the plus side, I’d read of and seen some stills from Obayashi’s House before but this is my first experience of his filmmaking proper and I’m happy to find in it, rightly or wrongly, someone else with a nostalgia for the physical theatre-like wizardry of early film directors like Segundo de Chomón and a feature film which continues to pile on the insanity like no other (though, admittedly, I get the feeling that it’s less enjoyable when seen actually seen as feature rather than as a series of loosely related vignettes). More than anything I’m entranced by what feels, at least now, to be an active avoidance of making anything in the least bit “convincing” lest it hamper the pursuit of craziness (even if it was actually, or as much, a case of the film’s ambition being far beyond what a “sensible” director would consider possible within the budget and technology available).

  • http://www.cementimental.com Tim Drage

    This is AMAZING, thanks, great find!

  • http://samehat.blogspot.com Ryan

    Hausu = So freakin’ excellent. It’s definitely worth the insane trouble of tracking down a VHS or Japanese cheapo DVD of this film. It’s one of my all-time faves :)

    Regarding the half-baked DRIFTING CLASSROOM adaptation (of the manga by horror master, Kazuo Umezu) see the poster and a funny English-language YouTube review of the film here:
    http://samehat.blogspot.com/2007/02/all-things-crappy-drifting-classroom.html

  • Chuck R.

    Creative? Absolutely!
    But….
    When you get to the climax of a horror film and the effects make you bust a gut laughing….something’s amiss. Were those girls being attacked by the leg lamp from A Christmas Story?

    I gotta be honest though, aside from The Exorcist (no digital trickery there either) few American horror films ever scared me, so maybe this is the way to go. The Host was pretty funny too.

  • Joshua Smith

    Obayashi was part of the vanguard of DIY 8mm experimental filmmaking in Japan when it started taking off in the late 50′s, along with folks like Donald Richie, now better known as a film historian, who incidentally is the English narrator in the above linked “Emotion.” (By the way, Emotion is my favorite of his experimental films. It’s full of great ideas, like when the handsome vampire first meets the young female protagonist and reaches out to playfully touch her nose, and it cuts to his finger touching a photo of her face under a thin layer of water, the ripples indicating her swooning)
    Obayashi was soon making a living directing commercials, often using the same actors/models for personal projects in his spare time, as in Emotion. His over the top special effects and quick editing were quite influential in the Japanese commercial making industry, and it’s quite possible that he was the first to start the trend of bringing in Western celebrities to hawk Japanese products (for example, he was responsible for the Charles Bronson “Mandom” commercials–check youtube). House was his first mainstream feature, but as you can clearly see, he wasn’t pressured into curbing the stylistic excesses he’d developed over the years. As crazy as House was (and it’s pretty much the craziest of his mainstream films), it was a financial success, and it led to a prolific career as a feature director. Obayashi has worked in pretty much every genre–horror, sci-fi, campy kids movies, mysteries, dramas both arthouse and pop-culture cheesy, etc. But pretty much all of his films have some degree of his trademark stylish flourishes.

    Thanks for the post Amid!
    (PS: I think I sent you a DVD of House some time ago)

  • http://doinkydoodles.blogspot.com/ Luke Newell

    Ah, that’s where Disney got the idea for the musical number in Beauty and the Beast.
    Nuts. Awesome.

  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com John Paul Cassidy

    Ryan:

    That’s your review of THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM, right? If so, it’s an awesome review! Based on the clips I saw, it looked like a classic Gamera film without Gamera or any other monsters, and gone horribly wrong.

    The aforementioned Guy Tucker did a lengthy demolition of it in Issue # 2 of MARKALITE (one of my favorite magazines)! One of my favorite quotes in his review (especially about that urinating creature): “This creature got a couple of laughs out of the Japanese audience, who seemed relieved to see something they knew was supposed to be funny. Me, I laughed at everything else. Most of the movie was shot in English, with grotesque acting and line readings, probably encouraged by the director.”

  • http://www.brigetteb.blogspot.com brigette b

    Awesome. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Thinking about the direction of Japanese advertising thanks to Obayashi’s efforts, this can explain probably why a lot of people tend to be weirded out of watching those 15 second gems given the bizarre nature that are crammed into them, and while it suited them fine, it’s the sort of weirdness we aren’t really accustomed to seeing in our own commercials, let alone if any agency would be caught dead with ideas like that.

  • J Hobart B

    Oh, great, now EVERYONE is going to find out about Hausu! Just kidding… Kind of…