Sweet Home (1989)

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Synopsis
TV producer Kazuo, his daughter Emi, reporter Asuka, art preserver Akiko and all-purpose chauffeur/camera guy Taguchi negotiate the keys to an old mansion they don’t know is haunted so they can restore a long-lost fresco, as well as shoot footage for a documentary on it.

“Thirty years ago, the genius artist, Ichirou Mamiya, died here.” Asuka states. “Since then, the Mamiya family had no one take over the house. For 30 years, no one has entered this mansion.”

For good reason — it’s cursed! An evil spirit awakens when chauffeur Taguchi grabs stones from a carefully-stacked anti-ghost cairn in the yard to bash open a door to get to a generator.

After that, things take a turn for the creepy. Mamiya’s fresco starts growing, adding paintings of baby-sized caskets and ghosts to itself. Then, Asuka tells people to give her back her baby, even though she has no baby. The next day, she instinctively digs a coffin up with a tiny, rotting corpse inside. Her colleagues find it, they’re all Gaaaw, what the fuck?, Asuka freaks out, peels away in the group’s only car, and drives it into a tree. “She’s basically a crazy woman.” Kazuo articulates.

Now, without a way out, our five must fight to survive the night in Mamiya Mansion, where shadows creep and kill, the frescos have minds of their own, and something apparently wants its baby back!

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Review (SPOILERS)
Though it’s never officially been released in the US for whatever reason, Sweet Home can be watched on YouTube. Quick, it’s there right now!

Despite its scares and badass, gross-out special effects work (courtesy Dick Smith, The Exorcist), this Japanese haunted house flick is sort of a light-hearted romp. Its more dramatic moments are counterpointed with physical humor, like people tripping, bumping into each other, etc., as well as adventurous, lively music with a fantasy feel, like something from Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While I’ve got you on the subject of video games, this here movie inspired a game of the same name for the NES (also unreleased in the US), itself (or so I’ve read) the main inspiration for Resident Evil. Cool beans.

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Right. So the ghost starts killing, possessing people, roaring like a T-Rex, the usual. Partway through, our characters cross paths with a Mr. Yamamura, this film’s version of Ralph, the crazy, superstitious prophet of doom from Friday the 13th no one believed, that turned out to be right. “It’s got a death curse!!” Apparently, Yamamura does too. Why else would he smoke while he pumps his gas?

Well, devil-may-care Yamamura pops up later for story time, cluing us in to exactly what happened to bring about the mansion’s curse. Seems one day, the painter’s wife, Lady Mamiya, lit her furnace, unaware that her baby had crawled inside (it’s later shown that a grown woman can barely budge the door, but fuck it, a baby swung it open). Mamiya did what she could to save the child, but epic-failed, horribly scorching herself in the process. After the incident, bitch went cray, abducting neighborhood rug rats as “playmates” for Junior, hurling them into her furnace, logs for the fire. I don’t know why, but I laughed when I read this:

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It’s later explained that Lady Mamiya’s evil ghost can manifest itself as the mansion’s shadows and use them to burn people, much like she and her baby were burned. Kazuo suggests they fight these shadows with light, but Yamamura shoots him down, claiming the more light there is, the more shadows there are. Wait. Uh, ok. Yamamura’s master plan: sing a song, then reason with the ghost.

Yeah, so he gets iced. Melted, rather. In fact, he’s melted down to a pile of bones while his comrades gape in amazement for the minute-plus process. That’s cool, don’t help or run away or anything. Let’s just hang out and watch this guy die. Good friends.

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One of our main heroes falls victim as well when their legs are burned off. The part where their gurgling, smoldering upper half gasps and claws for help — damn. Creepy and very well-done, effects-wise. Another favorite moment sees glass from a flashlight bust outward slow-motion when shined at the ghost. Lots of cool effects and visuals going on.

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At first, the killed-by-shadows premise instantly brought to mind Darkness Falls, but the greater influence was probably on Spanish filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro’s ghostly fairy tales, like Mama. So, if you like those, you’ll like this. Even if you don’t, you might like this. God I hated Mama.

All in all, an entertaining ghost story.

Thanks to the Angry Scholar for pointing me toward it.

A Few Questions
So, if Lady Mamiya’s baby was young enough to have just learned to walk, why didn’t she know where it was, or care to find out, before she lit the furnace? That’s just grossly-negligent parenting. No sympathy here.
Hold up. Everything’s fine now? Lady Mamiya’s spirit went to Heaven? She was a baby killer. Like, SHE KILLED BABIES.

The Verdict
YouTube it.

Recommendations
Sweet Home (Video Game, 1989)
Darkness Falls (2003)
Mama (2013)

Horny House of Horror Butt Rating: Three Butts
Butt Scale 3

Yeah, we’re keeping the butt system for Asian movies.

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3 Responses to “Sweet Home (1989)”

  1. Yyyyyyyaaaayyyyyy! Stoked that you reviewed it!!

    And I agree on pretty much all points. It really does have a weird sunny feeling, right? I mean, until, like, Asuka melts in that wheelchair, or what’s-his-face gets burned in half. Those moments are, you know, not so sunny. But still, it feels way more Indiana Jonesy than Nightmare on Elm Streety.

    And I’m particularly glad that you caught the Guillermo del Toro similarities. When I wrote about Mama I was obsessing over how the end game of both movies is virtually identical.

    And yeah, I hated Mama too.

    Awesome review!!!

    Like

    • Cool. Great minds think alike. And thanks! I liked this one, so feel free to suggest more movies you think I’d like now and then.

      I swear I noticed the Mama similarities myself, but maybe I read your review and it stuck in the back of my head. Meh.

      Like

      • No no, I believe you–I’m glad you commented on them. Because it seemed like nobody else in the blogosphere noticed the similarities and it was making me crazy.

        Like

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