Friday, July 20, 2012


Somewhere between the Powerpuff Girls and Evil Dead is Hausu.

It opens as one would expect:  With a bunch of Japanese teenage girls dressed up in their Sailor Moon uniforms taking Polaroid photos of each other. Yes, i know it's not Instagram, but bear with me. We start with Gorgeous and her friend Fantasy discussing the end of the school year.

Here they are with their teacher. There is something kinda Wonder Woman about these outfits. Gorgeous goes home to where she lives with her father in an apartment furnished with astroturf, wicker, a luridly painted backdrop of a sunset and a tape loop of nature noises. Her father is home from doing a soundtrack for Sergio Leone. No, literally. I did not make that up. "He said I was better than Morricone." Daddy introduces her to her new stepmother, who is apparently some kind of Melissa Manchester impersonator who is constantly accompanied by a wind machine.

Gorgeous now hates daddy. Into lusciously wallpapered teenage girl bedroom and photo-burning pouting fit. Back to school, where we meet her other friends, Melody, Kung Fu, Sweet and Mac, as in "Big --" or "-- Out." All of the girls are supposed to go to "Training Camp," but somehow can't go, so Gorgeous invites them all to her house. Then, suddenly a big, white cat appears. This happens sometimes. See,  Gorgeous:

And Bubbles:

And Blofeld:

And Diddley, the fluffy white kitten that i suddenly acquired by accident. ("I found this cat. Want it?") In this photo it is deceptively small, but now it is giant and loud and and indestructible and can change genders but, fortunately it is not smart enough to be dangerous to humans:

Well, where was i?

The girls take a cartoonish trip to Gorgeous' aunt's house. Cartoonish is the best way to describe this film and its directorial aesthetic. This was his directorial debit of Nobuhiko Ohbiyashi. His aesthetic is kinda Hello Kitty, kinda Henry Darger, kinda Dario Argento. He likes overblown colors, overdramatic action and overcranked soundtracks -- imagine Douglas Sirk directing Pinky Violence. The names that sum up the characters, the silly music, the backdrops so obvious that you can even see the line above where they hang in some shots. Apparently his pre-teen daughter wrote the story for Hausu, which makes sense -- actually, i would've though she'd be younger.

 We stop for the girls to watch an old movie and coo over their (unseen) (male) teacher. Then it's creepy train station, walk through forest, watermelon of evil portent, psycho caretaker and here we are at wheelchair-bound auntie's house. We're treated to more silly backdrops, more fluffy white kitty, more irrational dialogue and inexplicable visual effects. Mac complains of being hungry. Sweet dresses up as Holly Hobbie and cleans like Joan Crawford. Kung Fu flies about with some nice wire fu while wearing hotpants. Auntie grins enigmatically.

But gradually the girls begin disappearing. Not only does one girl find her friend's severed head, but then it flies around, bites her on the ass and throws up -- and we're off! There seems to be no explanation for the sudden attacks and random dismemberments. Then the animation kicks in and shit goes utterly, completely stone-cold bananas.Attacked by a mattress! Eaten by a piano! Drowned by a clock! Parodied in the style of an Asian soap opera! Forced to move in slow motion and juggle nonexistent objects! Hassled by giant disembodied lips!

The story makes no sense. The cinematography makes no sense. The editing makes no sense. The sets make no sense. The sound design makes no sense. And i say none of this like it's a bad thing: Commitment to insanity gives Hausu a full-blown otherworldliness that gives both Eraserhead and Alice in Wonderland (any version) a challenge. A deranged, violent, romantic, fluffy, pink challenge.

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