Friday, October 22, 2010


One of the best films I've seen this year is the 1968 Japanese horror film Kuroneko directed by Shindō Kaneto’s who is known for directing Onibaba a film somewhat similar in plot and theme.  But while that one is a bit more realistic this one is a ghost story of sorts in a sub-genre known as bakeneko mono or monster-cat tales.

The film's first scene involves a group of samurai who invade the home on Yone (Nobuko Otawa) and her mother-in-law Shige (Kiwako Taichi) whom they brutally rape and murder. The two women lay dead and a cat comes along and laps up their blood, which leads to them being transformed into vengeful spirits or bakeneko, "beautiful cat-like women" who have taken an oath to kill and suck the blood of all Samurai.

Subsequently, they settle in a home deep in the forest where they lure samurai to kill them. As the story unfolds we learn that the mother has a son - married to her daughter-in-law - who went off to war. He returns and is promoted to samurai by the local warlord who tells him to go in search of the spirits that are killing the samurai. He, of course, doesn't realize that these spirits are his mother and wife.

The story is quite good as it builds tension amid some of the horror elements - although to be honest the film is not particularly scary or bloody. At least by today's standards. However, the cinematography is stunning both in the use of black & white lighting but also the staging of each scene in the forest and some visual references which recall the influence of Nōh theatre.

Overall, the formal elements are terrific and the fillm's story really builds a very engaging suspense.

More info here:

MediaSeized analysis
Film Ref review
DVD Outsider review
DVD Beaver review

No comments: