Nobuhiko Obayashi died this year, but left behind a career that began as an experimental filmmaker and somehow moved into mainstream success and around 3,000 commercials. At least in the U.S., he’s best known for this movie, which got its start when Toho asked Obayashi to make a movie like Jaws. His daughter Chigumi gave him several ideas that he worked into a script with Chiho Katsura. For two years, no director wanted to make the movie*, so eventually, Obayashi made it himself with a cast of nearly all amateur actresses**. So much of what ended up on the screen was influenced by Hiroshima, where the director grew up and saw every one of his childhood friends die in an atomic blast.
This is truly a haunted house tale told by and for children. Obayashi even wanted the special effects to look unrealistic, as if made by a child. So let that inform the story of Gorgeous, who has been planning a summer vacation with her father, who has been Italy scoring film music***.
Instead, she learns that she has a new stepmother and makes the decision to visit her aunt, along with her friends Prof, Melody, Kung Fu, Mac, Sweet and Fantasy, all of who have names that completely explain who they are.
From there on out, honestly, you’re on your own. House is a movie that should be experienced instead of read about, because this is the kind of movie where pianos can eat children, where watermelons become human heads and heroines can burst into flames within happy endings.
Man, according to the IMDB trivia section, Obayashi proposed a story for what would have been the 16th Godzilla film, which would have used the same crew as House. In this story, a girl named Momo finds the dead body of Godzilla, who is really a pregnant female alien named Rozan who died from diabetes, and then she becomes a spaceship to take children to her home planet to bring Godzilla back. There was, of course, a female monster who shot flames out of her breasts.
*Obayashi would later say that a producer told him that Toho was tired of losing money on comprehensible films, so they decided to let him make something that was incomprehensible.
**Most of those actresses had worked on his commercials, other than Yoko Minamida who played the Auntie. Also, Obayashi was a smart guy, because he made a series of movie tie-ins before the movie was even made, promoting the script so that Toho saw that it would be a success. He published a commercially-successful manga, radio drama and soundtrack album with the band Godiego before Toho finally said that he could make the movie himself.
***How weird would it be if her dad was scoring Suspiria, a movie that House shares the idea of childhood against horror, some level of nonlinear storytelling and primary colors with?