I initially discovered this film through the recommendation of a bandmate whose only description of the film was that it was a "classic japanese horror film about a haunted house" which was enough to peak my interest, being a fan of both classic horror camp and japanese horror. but i had no idea what an absolutely bizarre and visually bananas film it actually was.
i think there are two facts about this film that may enhance your viewing experience if you know about them going in. The first is that the director was previously only known for his visually stunning work directing commericals, and if you know anything about japanese commercials you know they tend to be wacky as all heck. This film is just as wacky but its visuals are not only entrancing but also strangely beautiful. The intense use of color, vivid painted backdrops, and creative editing make some scenes in this otherwise silly and over the top horror campfest actually breathtaking. The second fact to know going in was that the story was written by the director's own young daughter. Upon hearing that, you would think that plays to the films detriment but it actually gives it a sort of storybook charm, albeit a storybook with a sinister edge to it. This also serves to help ground the dynamic between the group of schoolgirls with a sense of insight and relatability in this otherwise campy story. too often, young people in horror films are clearly being played by older actors and behave the way an adult thinks a young person behaves, which is to say not very accurately. so its refreshing to see these younger characters look and behave like actual young people.
as mentioned before, the visuals on display here are mezmerizing and even sometimes beautiful. while refraining fron specifics, a scene in which a character is devoured by a household object, an entirely outrageous and hilarious concept in and of itself, is simultaneous uproariously funny and visually marvelous to watch. but instead of lazily tackling this concept, the vfx and editing are smart and creative which to me is what all great horror moments should be about. my attraction to the genre has always been from the aspect of visuall effects which is why the works of cronenberg are some of my favorite horror films of all time, and while the effects here are no where near as detailed as those of his work they still make you marvel at their execution just the same.
now to the best part, the camp. for the most part, campiness in horror falls into one of two categories. either they're so bad they're good, or they're self-aware of the low budget and campy humor. this film falls in the latter category. i implore anyone to watch the chandelier scene and tell me differently. this is what makes the film an absolute joy to watch with friends. i hosted a double feautre at my house for my birthday last year and screened both Seijun Suzuki's Tokyo Drifter and this and while the former film recieved a lot of praise, everyone was talking about this film. There are so many small moments in this film that result in uncontrollable laughter, especially if substances are invovled. (word of advice: dont make a drinking game of how many times the cat appears on screen unless you enjoy being hospitalized or dead)
as far as the scares go, this film really only maxes out at being slightly creepy in parts. the main actress and the actress portraying the grandmother really help sell this on top of having the best performances. the big appeal of this film as a horror classic lies in its campy humor and the vfx. dont go expecting putrid gore and absolute terror. this isnt takashi miike, here.
i cannot recommend this film enough. even if you dont enjoy most horror films, you will have a blast with this one i promise you.
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