Sid and Marty Krofft, meet Salvador Dali. There are movies for which advance word in the newspaper seems like insufficient notice. In the case of this thoroughly insane feature—a 1977 Japanese horror film now making erratic stops across the country, like a spaceship crashing in your backyard—it's hard to imagine what method could conceivably herald its contents: a three-story gong, maybe, or an army of acid-crazed Brownies shrieking through the streets.
For now, this'll have to do: Run. Wake your neighbor. Slap your children. Eye your cat with suspicion. Every once in a blue-screen moon, a movie will remind even the most jaded of cult-film aficionados that, no, in fact, they have not seen everything. Here, director Nobuhiko Obayashi dispatches six schoolgirls to spend their summer vacation with classmate Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami) at her ailing aunt's remote estate. A friend described the movie's first half as an experimental film made by an 11-year-old girl, and that fits: Avant-garde devices such as screens within screens may be underscored with pancake-syrupy pop, or framed with the kind of gauzy borders a kid might sketch around a doodled unicorn.
And the second half? Why spoil some of the only surprises to rattle movie screens all summer? I don't think this is giving away too much: There's an evil housecat, and it convinces a piano to eat one of the girls. All I will add is that Obayashi's body of work extends from experimental shorts to apocalyptic teenage sci-fi (1987's The Drifting Classroom) to those notorious 1970s Charles Bronson "Mandom" perfume ads—and in House, he manages to compress them all into one brain-boiling spew of psychotropic, psychedelic, sense-deranging WTF imagery. It's scary not in any conventional sense, but because a viewer feels so utterly without bearings—as if whatever glue holds the universe together had suddenly turned to Jell-O.
Brought to you by (of all people) the canonical custodians at Janus Films, House is the reason midnight movies were invented: so you will have other people to confirm that, yes, you really did just watch a deadly assault by animated lampshade. (Shows midnight July 31-Aug. 1 at The Belcourt)
True situation comedy may be the hardest kind to pull off, because it's the least reliant on obvious cues like punch lines or pratfalls. But when done properly—as in writer-director Lynn Shelton's sharply observed indie hit—it can keep you laughing even when nothing overtly funny seems to be happening. Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard play old friends who've grown apart as Duplass has settled into married life and Leonard has clung to his On the Road self-image. Reunited and nagged by worries that they've lost their old edge, the buddies notch up their rivalry until they've committed to a colossally misguided show of daring—starring together in an amateur gay porn film.
What could have been a predictable gross-out farce instead takes one unexpected turn after another, as the characters respond believably to their unbelievable predicament—and that includes everything after the brosephs enter the hotel room they've rented for their moment of truth.
Duplass, last seen in the NaFF selection True Adolescents, and The Blair Witch Project's Leonard have spry comic chemistry. But the performer who steals her every scene is Alycia Delmore as Duplass' wife, who descends the rungs of cold fury with hilarious tight-lipped concealment. Never have the phrases "You're right" and "I shouldn't get mad" sounded more like preludes to Armageddon. (Opens Friday at The Belcourt)
Note: The 7 p.m. show Friday, July 31 will be preceded by a free reception with the film's associate producer and soundtrack contributor Ted Speaker. See belcourt.org for more details.
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