Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Original Title: Yabu no naka no kuroneko
Japan, 1968. Toho Company. Screenplay by Kaneto Shindo. Cinematography by Norimichi Igawa, Kiyomi Kuroda. Produced by Nobuyo Horiba, Kazuo Kuwahara, Setsuo Noto. Music by Hikaru Hayashi. Production Design by Takashi Marumo. Costume Design by Yoshio Ueno. Film Editing by Hisao Enoki. Cannes Film Festival 1968.
This stunning ghost story follows up director Kaneto Shindo’s disturbing supernatural tale Onibaba, which also focused on two female characters dealing with male brutality. After a young woman and her mother-in-law are raped and murdered by samurai soldiers coming through their village, the grove in which they lived in is haunted by their ghosts. The ghosts lure men into their gorgeous mirage of a home where they feed them, seduce them, and then viciously kill them, determined to get revenge on all samurai for what was done to them. Their plan is going well until the samurai who is assigned to rid the forest of their evil presence turns out to be the man who left his wife and mother alone three years earlier to go to war. There are a few process shots that aren’t wholly successful (or at least haven’t aged as well as the rest of it), but the practical effects creating the ghostly atmosphere are stunning, emphasizing theatrical lighting and movement for something elegant and graceful. It’s not just a supernatural chiller, though, this tragic tale is also filled with depths of emotional pain, as much about its characters’ injured relationships as it is about spooky phantasms.