By MICHAEL GINGOLD
The creator of one of horror’s most surreal achievements has died at age 82.
Various sources have reported that Nobuhiko Obayashi, director of the cult-favorite supernatural adventure HOUSE (HAUSU), succumbed to terminal lung cancer that he’d been battling for some time. He began making experimental films while at university, and continued to do so after he began his professional career doing TV commercials (including ads featuring American movie stars like Charles Bronson). When he made his feature directorial debut with HOUSE, scripted by Chiho Katsura based on ideas by Obayashi’s daughter, he brought all his experience with avant-garde and special effects techniques to the story of seven schoolgirls who travel to one girl’s aunt’s house for a summer vacation, and fall under attack by bizarre supernatural entities and occurrences.
Produced by the legendary Toho company, HOUSE was a success in Japan upon its 1977 release, but didn’t begin making waves in America until 2009, when it began playing venues like Fantastic Fest. Picked up by Janus Films, it toured numerous U.S. cities to rave reviews for its uniquely unreal approach to the genre, and received special-edition disc release as part of The Criterion Collection.
From HOUSE, Obayashi moved on to a number of acclaimed coming-of-age movies such as EXCHANGE STUDENTS, THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME and LONELY HEART, and antiwar films like CASTING BLOSSOMS TO THE SKY, SEVEN WEEKS and HANAGATAMI. He was diagnosed with cancer prior to the latter movie’s 2017 production and given three months to live, but he forged ahead and completed the project, as well as another feature called LABYRINTH OF CINEMA. That film had been scheduled to open today in Japan, but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Obayashi leaves behind a distinctive body of work, launched by one of Japanese genre cinema’s crowning achievements.