If you happen to find yourself stuck in a basement with television this weekend – and, given this weekend’s bicoastal inclement weather in America, this may be a large portion of you – I highly recommend watching everything on Turner Classic Movies this weekend. This weekend, Turner Classic Movies has a cavalcade of riches on every single day.
Friday night’s theme is “horror movies from the 1920s,” featuring the visual feasts of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Haxan. Saturday morning has the Peter Lorre creeper, Mad Love, a movie Pauline Kael stylistically linked to Citizen Kane. Saturday night, TCM Underground features The Town The Dreaded Sundown, a masked slasher movie that preceded Halloween and all of the codifications that came with it. Sunday evening has a string of Universal’s Frankenstein movies.
But, the real shining star of the weekend is Sunday Night/Monday Morning’s foreign feature: House. Though originally released in Japan in 1977, House only made its American debut in 2009 when Janus Films purchased the rights to it and gave it a brief theatrical tour. Word about the movie spread fast, and it became an instant classic of horror-themed insanity.
Memory and trauma is a tricky thing to grasp. Psychiatrists talk about the cyclical nature of trauma, and how history repeats itself without intervention. People traumatized by their parents will either repeat their parents’ mistakes or overcompensate in the opposite manner. In a way, House is about the trauma of history being passed along/inflicted on the next generation through their childhood fears. Gorgeous’ mother died when she was a child. Even though her mother’s death was years ago, Gorgeous is still distressed when her father introduces her to his new fiancee, prompting an impromptu trip to her aunt’s mansion in the country and dragging along her six friends in the process. It just so happens that her aunt is a vampiric witch waiting for her lover to come back after he died in Hiroshima, extending her own trauma into the house.
Everything that happens in the house is a stream of consciousness cavalcade of childhood terror. Mattresses attack by crushing the teenagers and cats play the piano, and disembodied heads bite people on the ass. Auntie inflicts the full weight of her lost lover on these innocent teenagers, completing her portion of the cycle, and she holds no punches in her insanity. The scenes read like horror movies projected straight from a toddler’s mind.
For pure visual ingenuity, House is required viewing. It’s zany, bizarre, surreal, and just plain strange. But, there’s even more there than initially meets the eye. And, once you’re done with House, stick around for the original adaptation of The Haunting.
House airs on TCM on Sunday Night/Monday Morning at 11pmPST/2am EST