John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, we head to feudal Japan, where the spirits of two women take revenge on the Samurai warriors that murdered them.
On the surface Kuroneko is a Japanese ghost story about two women who feast on the blood of samurai, but it goes much deeper than that. It’s a movie about love, loss, honor, revenge and making difficult choices. When a mother and her daughter-in-law are raped and murdered by a mob of samurai soldiers, they make a pact with the devil to come back as malevolent spirits who seduce and kill every samurai warrior that comes their way. Things become complicated when the spirits’ son and husband returns from home the war a samurai hero. He is tasked with investigating the samurais’ murders. The spirits must kill their only living family member. It makes for some interesting drama.
Ghosts from Japan seem to have different rules than those here in the States. These spirits feast on blood like a vampire, are part cat, possess superhero like abilities and can create their own reality almost like a holodeck from Star Trek. The soul of the living is not the same when it comes back as a spirit. Instead, it’s more like shadow or a reflection of the person. They seem to have the same memories of their living counterparts, but they are less emotional, and more intellectual.
The cinematography is beautiful with surreal black and white imagery. It sets an eerie mood for the movie, especially at night in the forest and inside the haunted home of the two spirits. I can’t think of another ghost movie that summons its tone better from lighting and shadows. It’s almost like the cinematographer is responsible for creating a third spirit.
Kuroneko is a brilliant film that uses the conventions of horror to explore the consequences of war and its effect on the human condition. The horror here isn’t about cheap thrills or getting startled by a black cat jumping from out of the shadows. It’s more about the situation. Imagine if you were forced to kill the person you loved most for the greater good. It’s a situation faced here by both the samurai hero and the spirits of the victims. I’m still thinking about the choices each of the three main characters have made days after watching the film.
Kuroneko is currently streaming on Hulu. It’s also available on a Criterion Blu-ray here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as a group of directors come together to create an over-the-top love letter to classic horror films.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
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