Paul Roquet has contributed a wonderful essay to the liner notes for the DVD release of "Hausu" and it's well worth reading as it gives a great insight into the importance of the film in Japanese cinema and of the importance of the director Obayashi. Well worth taking the time to read.
I'm not going to attempt to cover any of the ground that Roquet covers.
I'm going to stick to my "gut feeling" guns here.
There are not too many films which can boost scenes where men turn into bunches of bananas or where pianos eat young women...if you can think of another one then I would like you to let me know what it is so that I can watch it. "Hausu" contains both of these things as well as at least a dozen other, equally bizarre, haunting and memorable scenes of mayhem.
It is a dizzying, terrifying, confusing and amusing mish-mash of frights, laughs, stunning visuals, editing techniques that cause you to stop, pause, rewind and re-watch, animation, references to other films ("Kuroneko" would be one obvious example) and which also manages to set the template for the recent J-Horror movies (young girls in white dresses and long dark hair, strange goings on with mirrors, creepy cats and eery sound are all here in abundance). All of this means that at times "Hausu" is almost too much to take in; at any one time there are clever edits, new sounds, jokes, animations and visual techniques that take your breath away.
It is an almost stubbornly youthful film (Obayashi was tasked with luring back the youth market) filled with fast edits, bright colours and nonsensical moments and one can see why it succeeded in reigniting the passion and interest of young Japanese in cinema. It is fast, furious and fanciful...three things guaranteed to appeal to a teen audience. At the same time for fans of cinema of all ages it is obvious that this is a genuine classic and a film that can stand alongside the likes of "The Exorcist", "Halloween" and "The Shining" in terms of shaping (re-shaping?) the horror genre.
By the time I had finished with "Hausu" I felt exhausted as a result of its breakneck pace and almost never ending attempts to cram something new into every frame. Did I mention that it also contains a scene of a young woman being eaten by a piano? I did? Good, because it does and it's worth seeing...more than once.