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“House”: The Ultimate Midnight Movie?

“House”: The Ultimate Midnight Movie? (photo)

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It took 33 years for Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s film “House” to make its way to U.S. theaters, which is just as well.

This movie was ahead of its time in 1977, it’s ahead of its time now, and will continue to be ahead of its time until some point in the future when humans communicate telepathically and sleep in nutrient-rich fluid baths. I would call it a new contender for the title of ultimate midnight movie, but midnight feels about three hours too early for something as deranged as “House.” This phantasmagoric head-trip has to be one of the strangest and most surreal movies ever made.

It concerns the sometimes horrific, sometimes comedic, always psychedelic misadventures of a group of Japanese teenage girls. The gang is kind of an all-girl version of The Goonies: each is less a character than a type with her own gimmick and easily distinguishable physical features. There’s Prof (Ai Matsubara) the brainy one with glasses; Melody (Eriko Tanaka) the musical one; Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo) who’s got impressive martial arts moves, and so on. They all follow Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) to her aunt’s house for a summer vacation. Gorgeous’ Aunt (Yoko Minamida) is happy to have the guests, even if they invited themselves for the visit, because she’s actually an undead spirit who feasts on the souls of young unmarried females.

01142010_house2.jpgSoon after the girls arrive at the Aunt’s house, they come under attack from supernatural assailants — cats, pianos, posters, kimonos, and all kinds of ghosts — all trying to eat them, and all operating purely on the level of dream logic. Trying to describe what happens next is genuinely like trying to describe an intense dream to someone else: it never comes out sounding as profound as it was in your head.

Mostly, it’s just gibberish (“And then the light fixture ate her! Well, it ate half of her and then just her legs flew and kicked the evil cat poster! And then the poster ripped and it started spewing blood!”). While transcribing my notes from the section of the movie that does indeed involve killer light fixtures and dismembered legs attacking cat posters, I found this line: “This shit is bananas.”

And indeed it is. The degree of trippiness shames every Corman and American International drug movie of the 1960s. The practical special effects that turn household objects into toothy demons look like something out mid-period Cronenberg. The wild spurts of gore pouring from cracks in walls suggest Sam Raimi might have found a dusty copy during his formative years and gotten inspired to make “The Evil Dead” and especially “Evil Dead II.” But really, you can’t explain what this movie is like, you simply have to experience it yourself.

01142010_house4.jpgThe credit for this wackadoo experience belongs to Obayashi, a noted director of experimental shorts and television commercials who made the transition to feature films with “House.” As a filmmaker, the man is either incapable or unwilling to allow even a single shot to pass without it containing something of visual interest. He couldn’t let an early scene between Gorgeous and her father exist as a simple exchange of dialogue, so he staged the entire thing on a balcony and shot it through a wall of latticed glass in order to have the actors fracture and fragment as they talk and move, a nice warm-up for the later scenes that truly warp perception and reality.

At times near the end of the film, there’s almost too much going on for the eye to register. For certain, there’s animation, stop-motion effects, and things scratched or drawn directly onto the celluloid. As the girls face ever-mounting threats, the film builds to a visual crescendo that’s both disorienting and exhilarating. At this point, Prof remarks: “I don’t believe it! Can such things happen in this world?”

Anyone watching can share her incredulity. Movies don’t normally work this way. But this one somehow does.

“House” opens in New York on January 15th and will tour the country through July. A full schedule can be found here.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.