House (1977) A horror comedy fantasy inspired by Hiroshima, childhood fears, and preteens.
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
The magic of horror is that it is also part of our subconscious fears that are fed to us at an early age through folklore, oral stories passed down from generation to generation, and the fears we have as little children. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi knows about fear and deep pain as a child who had lived though the nightmare of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Having lost all his childhood friends to the war the scars of that seeped into his life and work. Incorporating the bombings of World War II and the outside thinking of his preteen daughter's ideas House was made and pitched to screenwriter Chiho Katsura for Japanese studios Toho with little confidence from other directors. No one wanted to make the film.
Obayahshi's daughter had suggested ideas for the film because of her childhood fears and an idea that adult thinking is linear and boring, because adults to her seemed to need an explanation or some kind of reason as to why things happen in order for a story to make "sense". This way of thinking resulted in boring adult thinking. Children she explained to her father did not need things to always make sense, that your imagination had no boundaries and House uses that sentiment in the exploration of graphics that seemed handmade and dripped with Technicolor with a childlike curiosity and out of the box thinking. This sentiment did not translate well for Japanese adult audiences but children loved House. What also makes House unique is it gives voice to teenage girls. This film centers around their experiences. interpretations, and fears.
I keep coming back to Chigumi Obayashi's director Nobuhiko Obayashi's preteen daughter's thinking. Her ideas came in the form of some of her nightmare's and fears as a child. They ended up being used in the film. The story was set up in childlike wonder without story boards because director Obayashi was immersed with preteen child like wonder from a cast of girls who had little acting chops. Playing games on set, using nontraditional methods of shooting, and not having a lot of confidence from the Japanese film studio Toho may have created a freedom expressed in animation, wild childlike wonder, and folklore oral traditions. It was as if the film stage was an open canvas and everyone in the story could use it to paint a picture unseen by Japanese audiences before. Like all great stories that may be undefined at the time of release, in time audiences found a connection to these stories because of the universal themes from our childhoods such as fear, imagination, wonder, and ghost stories. House brings all of the elements of wonder in Technicolor glorious delight. House is a must see when you just need something outside of the everyday Hollywood box.