Just imagine, after viewing Nobuhiko Obayashi’s bona fide genre find, how a generation of moviegoers’ tastes might have deviated in wonderfully odd directions had they sampled the Japanese visionary’s comic-horror hybrid back in 1977. Ponder the possibilities if films resembling the early output of Tim Burton and Sam Raimi rather than George Lucas’s Star Wars had captured the zeitgeist — years before either Burton or Raimi entered the scene.
Alas, weirdness had to wait. Janus Films’ release of this 33-year-old cult-classic-in-the-making is a singular experience, one whose haunted-house milieu merges live action with analogue animation and collage. The dreamlike narrative (adapted from the musings of Obayashi’s 11-year-old daughter) of seven schoolgirls converging on a country home filled with hungry pianos and a hellish housecat won’t appeal to mainstream appetites, but it’s an exotic dish for enlightened palates.