Kuroneko (1968) – Kaneto Shindo

While not necessarily a vampire movie, although there is a lot of neck-biting and blood, the Japanese horror film Kuroneko is a fantastic entry in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book.

The story follows the fate of two women, Yone (Nobuko Otowa) and Shige (Kiwoko Taichi), who are set upon in their own home by a group of samurai who rape and murder them, leaving their bodies to burn in their destroyed home.

Resurrected in some mystical undead manner by a black cat, the pair hunt and kill samurai, exacting revenge for their fate.

But when Shige’s husband, Gintoki (Kichiemon Nakamura) returns from war, as a newly minted samurai, he is given the assignment of tracking down whomever, or whatever, is killing samurai.

Shige, along with her mother-in-law, has vowed to kill all samurai, but when she encounters her husband, will she keep her promise to the underworld, or will her heart rule?

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This ends up being a solid and entertaining horror film, one that plays with imagery, snd hints at the promise of sound design that would become so important for scares in horror films. It also has a nice emotional arc for the characters, and isn’t afraid to tell a solid story, something unusual for some horror films.

While not as terrifying as some Japanese horror films that would follow over the years this one ended up being a positive surprise, considering some of the less than stellar vampire films that were being made in the West at the same time.

The film features some beautiful and haunting visuals; especially the first samurai killing, and the glimpse inside the mansion in which the two undead women, mother-in-law and daughter, live – the forest moves around their seemingly stationary home, it’s an easily achieved film trick, but it’s completely dreamlike and unnerving within the context of the film.

This ends up being a rather beautiful and haunting film. The simple camera tricks that make the paranormal in the film possible while easily achieved enhance it, and work to benefit the story, and aren’t there just for scare factors. It has a wonderful atmosphere, and I’m ashamed to admit that I had never heard of it before I came across it in this book.

This is one of the reasons I love doing the blog so much, I watch so many films, and every now and then one comes along that I’ve never known, and just wows me completely to the point that it puzzles me why I never saw the film before now.

And if you pick up a copy of the beautiful coffee table book, Monsters in the Movies by legendary director John Landis available now from DK Books, you can find something scary and fun to watch tonight!

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