Skip to main content

Japanese Horror Visual Aesthetics

Nobuhiko Obayashi

Director Nobuhiko Obayashi

Who is Nobuhiko Obayashi?

Nobuhiko Obayashi was a Japanese director, screenwriter, and editor of films and television advertisements (Nobuhiko Obayashi). His most well-known film is Hausu (1977), which garnered a cult following due to its unique visual stylization and superficially kitschy quality. The film, whose protagonist is humorously named "Gorgeous," caricatures relationships between teenage girls while simultaneously illuminating the intimate, romantic bonds between them. The narrative follows these teenage girls as they are vacationing at Gorgeous's aunt's house. What begins as a hyper-idyllic visual space, replete with soft pastel tones and flowing, summery garments, quickly dissolves into the disturbing and uncanny. In "Breaking the Mirror: Hausu and Bad Love Objects," Erin Nunona details some of the distinct visual techniques that Obayashi employed in the making of Hausu: 

Melody's orgiastic death at the hands of a piano is illustrated through a combination of stop-motion effects, green-screen cutouts—at one point showcasing parts of her nude, dismembered body gleefully dancing—and postphotographic animation. While her demise includes a fair amount of obviously fake blood, it does not necessarily emphasize gore (or even the traditionally horrifying) as much as visual phantasmagoria and the defiance of cinematic naturalism; in this sense, the film works to discombobulate realistic techniques as much as the bodies of the girls at
its center (Nunona, 2020).

This pastiche of live-action photography and moments of mixed-media layering parallels the pre and post-World War II intergenerational fragmentation between Gorgeous and her aunt who, having lost her lover to the war, is a victim of some of the war's most injurious consequences. In this way, there is a potent symbolism to Obayashi's visual stylization that can be located across distinct points within Japanese history and consciousness. 

Both the movie poster and the film still hint at the fantastical nature of Hausu's visuals. Many of the film's most memorable scenes are awash in hallucinatorily vibrant colors and contain mixed media layering.

Movie poster for Hausu (1977)

Film still from Hausu (1977)

A Preview of Hausu (1977)

Watch the original trailer for Hausu (1977). (metadata link)


This trailer highlights the campiness of Hausu's narrative while showcasing the elaborate visual techniques that Obayashi employs throughout. 

Nobuhiko Obayashi Gives a Personal Glimpse into Hausu's Creation

Interview with Nobuhiko Obayashi about his classic film Hausu (1977). (metadata link)


Obayashi discusses the making of Hausu in this interview conducted by Dr. Aaron Gerow of Yale University

Other Horror Films that Nobuhiko Obayashi Directed or Helped Create