The widely-acclaimed 1977 Japanese fantasy horror film House directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi is staple viewing for the Halloween season. The beloved cult-classic houses a variety of imagery, tones, and themes that thrill, surprise, and delight in strangely unique ways.
House follows a group of seven schoolgirls who visit an aunt’s country home for the summer break and ultimately find themselves in the belly of the beast. Gorgeous, Sweet, Melody, Kung Fu, Prof, Fantasy, and Mac fall deep into the darkness beneath the home. Obayashi masterfully layers each frame with playful practical effects, wild animations, and imaginative beats in the same way he crafts his diaristic stories grounded in history combined with childlike wonder. The visceral iconic scenes in the film have much to do with his daughter Chigumi’s original concepts; tapping into youth and full fantasy.
This Halloween season, I set out to recreate some of these stills from the classic film.
With House being shot on 35 mm color motion picture film, I wanted to replicate that by shooting on 35 mm as well with the LomoApparat paired with the Lomography Color Negative 800 film; trusting in the LomoApparat's 21 mm wide-angle lens to capture more of the space that surrounds it and provide a deep depth of field with its fixed aperture of f/10.
Similar to the start of the film where we see two friends, Gorgeous and Fantasy, having a photo shoot in their school classroom before heading for their summer vacation, I was joined by my friend Ten to bring these House stills to life.
The images were shot indoors with the use of a few colored backdrops to imitate a studio setting. I had all of the ambient lights turned off in order to fully utilize the LomoApparat's built-in flash. Overall, the main camera accessories used for this shoot were the flash (clear), ND filter, and the Kaleidoscope lens attachment.
Disclaimer: Photos have been post-processed and edited on Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to stay closer to the original material being recreated.
Meltdown: Neutral-Density (ND) Filter with Flash
For the first still recreation, we find Gorgeous — one of the seven girls who visit the house for the summer — lit up in flames: her face falling apart and breaking into hellfire. Moments before this, she had seen her reflection merge with an image of her aunt (a.k.a the homeowner).
To achieve this, I used the fixed ND flash filter built into the camera with the intention of limiting the highlights from the flash bouncing onto the white top and spilling around the frame. This also helped me maintain a subtle contrast between Ten’s hair and the black background.
To emulate the flames in the edit, I gathered my old photos that had light leaks on them — from the first of the roll photos to camera sealing accidents — and layered them onto the final photo.
Fantasy Force: Flash
The second and third stills take place in the latter half of the film. As the house unleashes itself and forcefully attempts to eat the girls, Fantasy and Kung Fu devise an action plan to seek help.
For these two photographs, I simply used the camera’s flash. I needed the images to be clear and straightforward, with the focus heavily relying on the subject.
Blue Afterglow: Kaleidoscope Lens with Flash
Only inches away from being fully consumed by the house, Kung Fu is taken into an unreachable place (conceptually speaking) for mere seconds. The fourth recreated still is a playfully hypnotic take on Kung Fu’s near demise.
Despite teetering on morbid grounds, the image exemplifies a seemingly playful tone mixed with surreal horror. I turned to the Kaleidoscope lens attachment to stay true to the original still and shot the image with the LomoApparat’s first curtain flash.
My only regret with the composition of the photo was that I wish I had stepped in a few centimeters closer and tilted the camera upwards so to fully position Ten’s face within the center of the frame.
In no way do these photos do justice to the world Nobuhiko Obayashi has created in House, but it was a fun and liberating first attempt at trying out a part of his process, using similar film techniques and practical effects as captured on 35 mm film.
If I were to go further with this project, I’d need to fully commit myself to the material and ensure every single detail is prepared beforehand. I'm excited for the next time I enter this realm of creativity and cinema and get to experiment more with the other LomoApparat features such as the colored gel filters, bulb mode, and multiple exposure.
My key takeaway from this shoot (and one that's been echoed through the film community for years) is to not be afraid to overexpose your film when shooting in low-light situations; it pays to trust in the capabilities of an ISO 800 film stock! Film loves light, so why hold back?
Thank you to Ten for helping me with this mini project and to Sunny16Lab for the film processing and scanning!
What movies are you looking forward to recreating this halloween season? How would you capture it on film? Share them with us at Lomography by tagging us on Instagram and creating your own LomoHome here.