Sunday, January 12

Some thoughts and images from The Making of Sweet Home (1989)

Toho Video's Sweet Home VHS 
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Sweet Home might be a criterion of sorts, a pioneering example of a video game and film developed in conjunction and released on the same day. However, the certainty of their partnered development is shaky, as the parallels are so strong that it seems hard to believe an entire game was built off of a finished film in such a short span. Despite the film's Wikipedia entry citing an interview with game director Tokuro Fujiwara speaking to a collaborative effort, I'd lean toward the role-playing Famicom game by Capcom coming first with the film adapting from its groundwork.

Either way, this haunted house picture enlivened by inventive effects work is great fun, and seemingly more known to retro game enthusiasts than most horror fans. Toho mounted an impressive marketing blitz upon Sweet Home's "dual" release with one of the fruits being this ninety-minute documentary covering the film's special effects. A wide range of methods were employed, everything from simple lighting tricks to large animatronics, all explored in great detail. Make-up effects legend Dick Smith was tapped to do on-location aging make-up and there's glimpses of him at his craft.

Naturally the entire feature is narrated in Japanese without subtitles, but if you're interested in the film or practical effects it's well worth the time and so comprehensive any language barrier is easy to forgive. There are two small snippets of English of Smith stating it's an honor to work on the film and an American member of the animatronics team describing the difference between what Japanese and American audiences demand from visual effects (Japan has a much higher suspension of disbelief).

According to Tom Mes in his review at Midnight Eye, Kurosawa effectively disowned the film over producer Juzo Itami, who also had a prominent role on-screen, looming large over production. This documentary goes a long way to reinforcing this, as Itami is often seen storyboarding and coordinating sequences with Kurosawa mostly in the background (the second shot below is the only "hands-on" footage of the director included). Itami even makes the VHS's cover front and center posing with one of the SFX props. Pardon the lack of a picture of said cover, I was very graciously sent a DVD-R copy by Yui (@LucioFulci74) of the Splatter, Slasher, Thriller Club (thanks again!). I've collected some stills from this making-of and uploaded the film's theatrical trailer over on BoGD's meager YouTube channel. Hopefully, Sweet Home makes it to DVD/BD eventually, it's still only on VHS and LaserDisc in Japan, and if it ever does this excellent companion piece must accompany it.


Richard of DM said...

Whoa! Those pics are awesome. I love Sweet Home. I can't think of a more fitting title from J-horror that is more deserving of a proper DVD release here in the States.

Matthew St. Cyr said...

I've been aware of Sweet Home (both the film and the video game) for some time and I'm sad to say that I haven't actually seen either one yet, but I'm most interested. I will have to hunt this down! you dare tread upon the staircase?

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