No, seriously, that's about the best writeup I can give it. I am trying hard to figure out how to even begin describing this one. No, that's not exactly true. I can figure out how to begin, but not where to go after that.
Hausu (or House, if you're into the whole translation-into-English thing) is a Japanese horror movie from 1977 which, for reasons entirely unclear to me, is available in a Criterion Collection edition. It was directed by Nobuhiko Ohbayashi, about whom I know absolutely nothing. IMDB says he has quite a few films under his belt, but nothing that sounds familiar. It doesn't help that my eyes glaze over when I look at text in a foreign language.
Okay. So. Plot summary. A gaggle of schoolgirls with names like Gorgeous and Fantasy and Kung Fu and Sweet and Mac spend their summer vacation with Gorgeous' aunt whose name is never stated. The aunt lives in a house in the country, and almost immediately strange things begin to happen. The strange things start out as cute, unnerving incidents, and gradually ramp up in danger and supernatural weirdness. It's a haunted house movie, but the execution and style are so bizarre that I can't find a way to explain it without going into a lot of detail. Let's say that it's like a cross between the more surreal moments of Evil Dead 2, and Terry Gilliam's animations from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Anyway, suffice to say that the fat girl gets decapitated and her head goes flying around and biting people's buttocks, another girl gets killed when all the mattresses in Japan gang up on her bukkake style, and another one gets eaten by a piano.
Yes, you read that right.
She gets eaten by a piano.
Ultimately, it turns out that the aunt was so saddened by the death of her fiance in World War II that her body continued to live after she died, and it eats young girls. By feeding them to pianos. Because zombies are totally what happens when your lover dies before you are married.
Geez, what to say about this one? Sometimes when you see a movie like this, it's obvious that somebody just didn't have the talent or ambition to hit their target. Hausu is just... I have no idea. I honestly can't figure out who this film is for, what kind of response it's supposed to evoke, or what they were trying to achieve, but that works in the film's favor, because it's so strange. Apparently the screenwriter (who also directed it, after the studio tried, in vain, to find someone else) wrote the story based on a conversation with his young daughter because he thought a child could probably write a scarier horror movie than an adult. That many of the ideas came from a child explains a lot. This is one of the weirdest films I've ever seen, but it pales in comparison to certain anime. I don't know what the new weird anime shows are, but I'm thinking of things like Bobobo and FLCL.
Visually, Hausu looks surprisingly modern. Actually, it very effectively uses background effects that are done with CGI in shows like Blue's Clues and Teletubbies. There's a lot of cel animation mixed in with the live-action, kind of like Roger Rabbit or maybe Dot and the Bunny. I apologize for not having more contemporary references, and I apologize for not being able to describe it, except in terms of what it's like. Did you ever see Tampopo? It's like Tampopo with more blood.
Here's the trailer, but you'd do better to watch the Killer Lampshade Scene, or the Scene Where The Piano Eats What's Her Name.
I do recommend it, if only because it's so damned weird.