Hausu of 1000 Moe Corpses (give or take a few)
I picked up House a few weeks ago while there was a Criterion sale at Barnes and Noble. It’s a wicked little Japanese live action horror movie from the late 70’s. It’s also a vicious assault on everything the moe genre holds dear despite A) being live action and not animated, and B) being made over 20 years before the current moe boom. It’s like someone went into the future, saw the terror that is the armies of cute girls doing cute shit, and decided to make a movie warning us of their crimes and finding a way to punish them for their adorable, heartwarming crimes.
Actually, from what I understand, this sort of stuff’s been popular in Japan for quite some time. Even back in the day there were shows based around having teenaged girls going around doing the sort of thing we see in a lot of the popular moe series, with the main catch being that they were actual live action movies and whatnot. House starts with that basic formula. A group of high school girls are preparing for their summer vacation. They all fit into neat little stereotypes, most of which are still utilized in half the anime series made today: The pretty and stylish “main” girl, the brainy glasses girl, the aloof daydreamer, the tomboy martial artist, the music chick, the demure born-to-be-a-housewife girl, and the boisterous “fat” one that loves food. The main girl was planning on spending her vacation with her dad, but when she finds out that he’s engaged to a new woman (Again with the “dead mother” syndrome.), she’s disgusted with the notion of spending time with the new couple and asks her aunt if she and her friends can come and visit for the summer.
It’s the perfect set-up for a slice-of-life anime: a gaggle of moe tropes slacking about in a small country town over summer vacation, doing the shit that moe girls do when left to their own devices. The movie plays it all fairly “straight,” in that everything is all cheerful and bubblegummy from the getgo. Pop music plays in the background while all of the girls show their adorable goods to the audience. They talk about nothing, play music, play with each other’s hair, eat watermelon, and so on. It’s like K-On! if it were made into a live action movie.
Then they start dying one by one in the most terrifyingly surreal ways imaginable.
What’s awesome about their deaths is that many of them die in ways that turn their stereotypes into death traps. The musical girl is literally devoured by a piano, and she continues to play said piano while she’s ripped asunder. The innocent girl is crushed by a flock of living mattresses, as if her “soft” submissive side was rearing it’s head and striking out for vengeance. In a neat twist, the main girl doesn’t even make it through the entire movie, as she’s possessed by her evil aunt as she’s distracted by a vanity mirror and make-up. Even the macho martial arts girl succumbs, as she’s taunted into literally fighting the aunt’s house using her 70’s styled fighting techniques (Meaning she does a lot of flips that cut to her posing dramatically while making loud Kung Fu cries.). She gets ripped apart by furniture and electrocuted by a lampshade that covers her head in a manner very similar to the titular weapon from Master of the Flying Guillotine.
It’s as if the Saki girls were killed by a killbot made out of mahjong tiles or if the K-On! girls were decapitated by flying guitars and had their blood replaced by strawberry icing afterwards. It’s beautiful stuff.
In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the Dario Argento movies I talked about back when Umineko was airing. The whole thing plays out very dream-like, with events only making sense if you buy into the whole “dream logic” concept. A lot of the “kills” have the same sort of “where the fuck did that come from” aspect to them, kinda like Suspiria’s “girl walks into a room only to fall into a pit of barbed wire” scene.
The movie also has a dude turning into a pile of bananas. Seriously, any movie that has a scene like that has to be fucking awesome. Watch this damn movie. You don’t even had to be a member of the Anti-Moe Church like myself to dig it. The whole thing is pretty damn hilarious in an intentional way, and it’s easily one of the better Japanese live action flicks I’ve ever seen. It’s right up there with the best Takashi Miike, Beat Takeshi, or Seijun Suzuki flicks. Awesome stuff.