How do you even begin to talk about a film like Hausu? It has one of the oddest trajectories of any film in recent memory. It went largely unnoticed for about thirty years after its initial release in 1977, and for a large part of the population, it’s still an unknown. It had been in Janus Films’ catalog, and around 2009 it began to pop up around various cities being screened.
In 2010 the film received a surprising, albeit welcome, Blu-ray release from Criterion, and has since garnered a reputation among cinephiles as one of the oddest and most fun films to be rediscovered in recent memory. Chances are, if you frequent any type of repertory cinema you’ll see someone donning an orange shirt with a freaky looking cat on it (see above) every once in a while.
After her father returns from a business trip with a new girlfriend, a teenager girl decides to travel with her group of friends to her aunt’s house. However, once they arrive strange events begin to take place all around them.
Outside of the obvious aspects of the movie, one of the first things you’ll notice about the film is just how gorgeous (no pun intended) the cinematography is. When director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi decides to switch to black and white (which turns out to be very rarely), it adds such a stark, yet welcoming, contrast to the colorfulness that occupies the rest of the picture.
A large amount of the enjoyment that comes from viewing the film is the absurdity of it all. The general behavior of the girls is enjoyable by itself, and their interactions with each other, whether it be their playful nature or simple observations of various events, ends up adding to the overall experience that the film provides.
What’s surprising is how Ôbayashi is able to craft and mold each of these characters into their own separate entity. I guess what makes this so impressive is the fact that he does this in a relatively short amount of time, and in a genre that doesn’t usually boast that kind of characteristic.
No matter who you are, the number one thing you’ll take out of viewing Hausu is that almost everything about the film is odd. The comedy, while not overtly strange for a horror film, is simply weird in its nature. I personally love the soundtrack, though I can clearly see why it would be looked upon in a weird light.
In one of the best scenes in the film, Ôbayashi has all of the girls depart their train before they travel to Gorgeous’ aunt’s house, and a stunning shot of the girls walking across a bridge that’s suspended over a river, surrounded by tree. It’s truly a wonder to view. It could easily be viewed as a goofy scene, especially due to the use of the film’s soundtrack, but I found it to be visually compelling.
As mentioned, the soundtrack, like the entire film, will be discisive. Like a lot of other movies, there’s one theme that is used throughout the picture. Unlike many other movies, that theme has various variations. The great thing is, each variation on the theme works wonderfully. Each one has a creepy factor, yet the poppy one works entirely well on its own.
Watching Hausu on its own is an exhilarating experience, yet if you ever get the chance to see it with an audience, take it. It’s surprising that it hasn’t already gained ground as a midnight movie among film fans, yet it seems to only make appearances a couple times a year, usually around Halloween. Either way you end up viewing Hausu, it’s still an incredibly odd and enjoyable experience.
Hausu is available on Blu-ray and DVD.