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Archive for February 21st, 2012

Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko (1968)

AKA The Black Cat That Roams The Bamboo Grove.

A woman and her daughter in law are raped and killed by samurai soldiers who burn their house down after leaving. Returning as cat vampire spirits and making a pledge with an evil god in the underworld, the two vow revenge on any samurai that crosses the bamboo grove where the house used to be by luring into an illusory mansion and seducing them before ripping their throats out and sucking their blood. A young man Gintoki returning from 3 years of battle is made a samurai by Lord Raiko after killing an enemy leader. He goes searching for his wife and mother but only finds the burnt remains of his house near the grove. With samurai bodies starting to pile up, Lord Raiko orders Gintoki to go and kill the ghosts that lies within the grove. Gintoki encounters the ghosts and realises they are the vengeful souls of his wife and mother. He is torn apart in trying to obey his Lord’s orders as he cannot kill his wife and mother. The wife breaks her pledge to kill any samurai by spending 7 nights of passion with her husband and for that she is condemned to return to the underworld. After Gintoki sees an odd reflection of his mother in the forest, he attacks and cuts off her arm which transforms into one of a cat. Gintoki must destroy the spirit of his mother who wants to retrieve her arm back.

Probably one of the most chilling movies I’ve seen and a classic example of the Japanese supernatural horror genre made in the 60’s. Made by the director of another great ghost story Onibaba, Kaneto Shindo has created a very creepy movie in Kuroneko. The story is fascinating to watch even though the first 25 mins gets a little bogged down as we see the same scene repeated over and over again as samurai soldiers are lured to their deaths by the women. There are some truly memorable and surreal sequences on show that do manage to be frightening. A scene featuring 2 feral cats licking on the charred remains of the two women in their burnt out house is horrifying. The 3 main leads (the two spirits and the samurai warrior) are excellent. As well as being a horror movie, this is also a tragic tale of lost love. The black and white cinematography plus the special effects is awesome and the scenes inside the bamboo grove with it’s sounds of nature adds to the atmosphere. It has a haunting finale as Gintoki aimlessly pursues his mother, going mad, with winter snow used quite strikingly.

Overall Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko is a great combination of horror and fantasy and also a beautiful love story which is well worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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