This week on TCM Underground: Hausu (1977) and The House of Seven Corpses (1974)


This weekend on TCM Underground we’re going house to house!


The phrase “shit happens” was never more on-the-nose, cinematically, than in regard to Nobuhiko Obayashi’s HAUSU (1977), or HOUSE, as we know it here in the west. Normally when I set out to illustrate these posts I have a fair idea of what images I want to represent the films being discussed… but with HOUSE, where do you even start? The logline for this very atypical Toho release is genre boilerplate: a group of friends travels to a remote house and experiences strange and horrific phenomena. That could be about 1,000 movies, right? It could be EQUINOX (1971) or THE EVIL DEAD (1981) or THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974). But HOUSE is none of those movies. It is a film so batshit out of control (and I mean that in a good way) that it is almost a different movie every time Obayashi changes camera angles. Now I realize that is quite a thing to say and I realize I have used the word “shit” twice in the space of less than 200 words but know that 1.) I do not use profanity gratuitously and that 2.) I mean all of this to say that HOUSE is something to see. And that you should see it. Horror fans are a funny lot; they mope and gripe about how there are no new ideas and yet when something comes along that takes them out of their comfort zone they can turn churlish and nasty. HOUSE really divides the room, which should be Criterion Number One for any movie that hopes to call itself horror. The Village Voice, that bastion of progressive thought, called HOUSE “retarded.” You know when a movie makes you dig down to the very bottom of your lexicon of schoolyard insults that it has touched you in a very special place.

House of Seven Corpses

Paul Harrison’s THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974) is more conventional horror fare, and for that it has been called “derivative” and “routine,” which proves that you really can’t win. I saw this at the drive-in when I was 13 or so, so it has a special place in my heart. Shot in Utah back in the days when factions of the American entertainment industry were giving serious consideration to making Salt Lake City a second, more affordable Hollywood, by a director whose curriculum vitae to that point consisted mostly of episodes of Sid and Marty Croft’s H.R. PUFNSTUFTHE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES is the tale of a Hollywood film crew who sets up in a haunted house to make a haunted house movie. The filmmakers never really push the meta aspects of the film to their logical conclusion (unlike HOUSE, which pushes all of that straight through the back of your head), but it’s solid late night balderdash enlivened by performances by such aging studio contract players as John Ireland, Faith Domergue, John Carradine, and Charles Macaulay, who had just played Dracula in BLACULA (1972) and contributes the film’s most enjoyable performance.


When I saw that TCM was planning to run HOUSE this weekend my first thought was that it should be paired with Dan Curtis’ BURNT OFFERINGS (1976), both being stories about houses that — for want of a better word — eat people. But HOUSE and HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES partner very well, subjecting their respective characters to a hellish gauntlet the grotesque and arabesque while engendering in the mind of the viewer a reflection on the essence of storytelling and even of the medium of cinema itself. In HOUSE, Obayashi’s use of mixed media recalls early cinematic depictions of phantasmagoria by artists like Segundo de Chomón and Georges Méliès, while THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES is a throwback to the Old Dark House suspense school, in which travelers or visitors to some damned old domicile are terrorized and even killed by someone or something slipping between the bedcurtains or crawling out from behind the bookcase. As a bonus, these movies are made for cat-lovers. And, I guess, cat-haters. So everybody wins.

The fun starts on Saturday night at MIDNIGHT. Well, Pacific Standard Time. 3am on the East Coast. But let’s just say MIDNIGHT because that is scarier.

2 Responses This week on TCM Underground: Hausu (1977) and The House of Seven Corpses (1974)
Posted By Qalice : September 23, 2015 9:13 pm

I saw Hausu during a previous airing on TCM (thank you, TCM!) and I cannot describe it. I was never frightened, but my mind was blown and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys that sensation.

Posted By Richard Brandt : September 23, 2015 10:32 pm

HAUSU is indispensible and unmissable! Plus I can’t decide whether it’s intentional that one early scene so resembles SESME STREET!

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