The Eyeball #38: HOUSE


Session four of my six-part class on using experimental films as writing prompts commenced last night at Richard Hugo House.

In previous weeks we viewed films by Buñuel, Brakhage, and Anger, moving westward from Spain to Colorado to Los Angeles. This week we hopped across the Pacific to Japan, where we encountered Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House, quite possibly the most psychedelic movie ever to come out of Asia. This week I came prepared. I brought my students beer.

Here’s a really straight-forward description of the film. It’s about seven high school girls who venture to the home of one of the girl’s aunts. The house is haunted. Supernatural events go down. The girls die one by one.

Here’s a better description, written by Grace Krilanovich, whose The Orange Eats Creeps is my favorite book of 2010.

After cracking our Fat Tire Amber Ales, we settled in for 88 minutes of glorious pop freakout horror. At no point is this film actually scary, which I think has to do with pacing as much as the craziness of the special effects. Some of the edits are so abrupt, throwing you from one scene of contrived yet inspired ridiculousness into another, equally contrived and inspired and ridiculous scene, that the net effect is just fun. The dippy pop music, the expository dialogue, the trick shots just for the hell of it, it all accumulates in such a wonderful mess. And yet watching it for the second time, the film looked even more meticulous.

When the lights went up I asked my stunned students to write something from the point of view of one of the film’s non-human characters. A couple people chose Blanche the cat. One woman wrote something from the point of view of the chandelier. Brilliant.

Ryan Boudinot is the author of the short story collection The Littlest Hitler (2006) and the novel Misconception. He was a DVD Editor at from 2003 to 2007. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Seattle and teaches creative writing at Goddard College's Port Townsend MFA program. More from this author →