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Spooktober Review: “Hausu”

Japanese haunted house film perfects camp

Throughout “Spooktober,” Nicklaus Neitling reviews one horror property each weekday.

The best description I’ve heard of Hausu is “It’s like horror made by aliens.”

Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi and produced by legendary Japanese production company Toho, Hausu isn’t so much of a movie but rather an experience.

Hausu follows seven schoolgirls Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Prof (Ai Matubara), Mac (Mieko Sato), Fantasy (Kumiko Oba), Melody (Eriko Tanaka), and Sweet (Masayo Miyako) who travel to their friend’s aunt’s home for the summer. The characters’ personalities match their names. The strong, bulky girl is named Mac, the smart one is Prof, the fighter is Kung Fu, and so on and so forth. When they arrive, weird occurrences start claiming them one by one.

Spoilers for Hausu.

Once the girls start falling victim to the house, hilarity ensues. The film never takes itself too seriously and instead leans into the comedy. For example, the house’s items begin haunting and capturing the girls only after the aunt disappears by entering the fridge. You laugh at the film but the film invites you to do so. It’s not so bad it’s good; it’s just expertly done camp.

There isn’t so much in traditional horror here. There are scenes of gore and tension, but the comedic overtones that precede these scenes do a fair job of undercutting them. Prof tries to escape the demonic house at the end of the film, but it’s hard to take these final tense moments seriously when earlier a character’s severed head jumped out of a well to bite Fantasy’s butt. The film is going for camp, but this tone deflates otherwise serious moments.

But you don’t watch Hausu for the plot. Instead, the film makes for a great social watching experience. An issue one can often take with bad horror is its insistence on taking itself seriously. Hausu, however, wants you to laugh because (I’m willing to bet) director Obayashi wants to point out how ludicrous the premise of a haunted house is.

Here’s what I suggest with Hausu: get a couple of friends together, go to The Lobby and rent Hausu, get some beers (or beverage of your choice), and settle in for a fun evening. At this point in the semester, I think we’ve all earned a fun evening surrounded by friends.

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