House (1977)

House (1977), produced and directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi.

Seven schoolgirls vacation at an auntie's house in the country. Which is a haunted witch-place that devours them all in the end.

I scarcely know how to summarize this bizarre title. It is set up like a bit of fluff for pre-teen girls: tons of friendship in the tight-knit group, silly gags and music video moments against painted backgrounds. That angle never goes away, even as the mysteries accumulate, the girls disappear one by one, and we pass through a nightmare freakout toward the end. Still all very girly.

I don't know if a sexual element is intended. Those sailor-suit school uniforms would be fetish material in America, but seem standard in Japan. We have brief nudity.

Who invented the children's literature motif of characters named after their cute characteristics? Don't say the Spice Girls, this was before that. Who named Snow White's dwarves? Here we have:

Varied soundtrack, none of it quite appropriate, but this makes the film an even weirder experience. The main theme sounds like "I'll See You in My Dreams" to me.

Audiences liked it better than critics, and it was better received in the US than in Japan.

Criterion Blu-ray. The aspect ratio is 1.37; I don't think it was produced for TV.