Well, it turns out that her aunt is some sort of demon who feeds on virgins to rejuvenate herself. Helping her out are a demonic cat and some carnivorous furniture. Sounds pretty standard right? In the hands of a modern day Hollywood hack this could get turned around in a short period of time where it would make a few bucks on the big screen and be forgotten. In other words it would be formulaic pablum. Instead we get a phantasmagorical concoction of visual stimuli that will sear your brain and ensure that you never forget it.
The story can be explained, but in the case of House it is only half the story. This is filmmaking not meant to be consumed on the page; it is meant for your eyeballs, more than a lot of movies getting made these days. For as many films as I watch and that I enjoy, very few of them are visually inventive; I blame this on the increasingly money driven side of the industry. I do not blame them for it, after all, they do want to make money. However, while watching House, I cannot believe that money was a driving factor in its creation.
Nobuhiko Obayashi has created a visual feast that cannot be denied. Of course, he takes an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. He borrows from all genres and eras of film. The film uses animation, still photography, slow motion, iris in and out, wipe transitions, and other techniques in the service of his fantastical vision of the haunted house movie. Blood pours out of a cat picture, a piano chews a girl into bloody chunks, a severed head bites an unsuspecting bottom, giant lips appear from nothingness, and other strange happenings await within.
House is an uncompromisingly dark, humorous, freaky, and flat out bizarre fairy tale in the Grimm tradition. The story was cut together by ideas and nightmares had by Obayashi's seven-year-old daughter. I can only imagine what her therapy must have been like! Taken together in this movie it defies explanation, has to be seen to be believed, and will etc itself onto your gray matter never to be removed.
Audio/Video. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and it looks pretty good. You can tell it is an older film and it has an overall soft look that I really like. Criterion always does a great job of presenting films in the best possible manner, even if that isn't up to modern standards, sometimes that just isn't possible. The colors are bright and colorful, it has a Technicolor sort of look to it with the plentiful shades and how everything just pops. Criterion created this new digital transfer from a Spirit Datacine from a low-contrast 35mm print struck from an original negative and then cleaned of dirt and scratches. The work shows.