A group of schoolgirls travel to an isolated country house to see their friend’s invalid aunt. Once there, they encounter evil forces bent on making sure they never leave.
After her summer vacation plans are unraveled by the arrival of her new stepmother, young Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) arranges to visit her aunt in the countryside instead, inviting her friends from school to travel with her. Shortly after arriving, strange events begin to occur as the girls start disappearing. As the tension increases, the remaining girls find themselves in a showdown with a house possessed by rage and bitterness – a spirit that hates and envies their youth and will stop at nothing to consume them.
That’s the “straight” version of the story. In reality, this is a twisted acid trip of a film. When a floating head attacks one of the girls, that’s the start of the strangeness but it in no way prepares you for what’s to come. Karate fights with sentient firewood, killer furniture, a devilish cat, and more assault both the characters and the viewer’s sanity as the tale unfolds in a fever dream of childish special effects and nonsensical plot devices. The epic finale is equal parts insanity and psychedelic delirium, setting up a final sequence that starkly slaps a veneer of normalcy over the conclusion before, itself, unraveling.
This is not a movie for everyone. It’s not really good by any objective standard: the acting is mostly awful, the special effects are cheap even by 1970s standards, the story never resolves itself, and many of the sequences are incomprehensible nonsense. What “House” lacks as a film, though, it makes up for as an experience. When filmed in 1977, the studio wanted something incomprehensible, so the writer turned to his preteen daughter for story ideas, cast primarily amateur actresses, and set out to craft special effects that looked like they were done by a child. With that particular guiding vision, “House” can only be seen as a masterpiece.
If you’re the sort of person who went to see “Rocky Horror Picture Show” looking for a good, creepy, atmospheric film – and were soundly disappointed – this film is not for you. If, on the other hand, you got drunk, went to the theater with your umbrella, and recited the script line for line, enjoying the show – this is a must see.