Kuroneko ★★★★

Hoop-Tober 2018 Entry #13

KURONEKO is many things, all of them working to produce a fantastic film. It's a social commentary on the hard lives of farmers. It's a sharp criticism on a country's fascination with samurais. It's also a traditional ghost story. But the reality is it's combination of all those things, and put together turns this into an effective little story no matter how you slice it.

The quick summary: A young woman and her mother-in-law tend to their farm while waiting for her husband to return from the war. A roving band of samurai come and destroy everything, raping and killing the two in the process. Soon after a paid of ghosts stalk the countryside, viciously ripping the throat out of any unsuspecting samurai. When the young man returns a hero he's challenged to figure out who is killing all the samurai.

Kaneto Shindō directed ONIBABA a few years earlier, and there are similarities at play, particularly with the mother/daughter combo killing samurai. But KURONEKO feels unearthly, with beautiful black and white photography that plays wonderfully with light and movement. The story itself hints as the tragedy that lies at the film's climax, but when it does happen Shindō knows exactly how to play it so every ounce of tension is pulled into the mix. There are a number of scary moments, just when you think you have the pulse of the film when the deaths actually occur they're brutal (granted...in a 1968 art house way) and appropriately goes. Performances are great across the board, but the real star here is the beautiful cinematography courtesy of Kiyomi Kuroda.

Cat demons, samurai, jumping ghosts and sword fights...if there's a better way to spend an evening I don't know it.