Kuroneko ★★★★

The Road To Halloween - Eliminating The Horror 'Classics'

OK, so let's clear something up right away.

That guy was meant to be 22?! I bet he didn't need a fake ID to buy cider when he went in the Co-Op when he was 13! Fucking hell, terrible job with ageing there, fella! It reminds me of this clip from an episode of Russell Brand's Ponderland:-


Mind you, I guess I'm only making this point because I have maintained my youthful features deep into my 30s with the ravages of mass crisp consumption and staying up until 3am playing Super Mario 64 not having yet taken their full toll. The longer hair probably helps and the fact that I refuse to dress like someone in their mid-30s, mainly because I don't know how somebody of this age is supposed to dress.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the 1960s historical horror film Kuroneko. Just in case you're wondering, yes I am like this in real life and yes it probably is even more annoying, so you can count your lucky stars you only have to put up with my drivel on your Letterboxd activity stream.

Anyway, I liked Onibaba. Not as much as most, but I think I would attribute that to the fact that I've never really warmed to samurai films for the most part. That kind of ye olde swordplay film has never really been one of my main areas of cinematic interest. So I do wonder if the reason I enjoyed Kuroneko more was because there wasn't quite so much of the old samurai stuff going on here.

There was a fair amount of it still, but it seemed quite self-contained and doesn't get bogged down too much in feudal details and what-not. It also helped that the film does get right into the swing of things in terms of the opening attack and then the subsequent fate of the two ladies on the receiving end. Yet at the same time, the film also survives a much slower middle third which did teeter on the brink of losing my undivided attention.

I didn't mind so much, however, simply because I knew Kuroneko wasn't going to be able to maintain the pace of its first half an hour. When it settles into its middle third it almost becomes some sort of twisted romance film while our central hero is caught in a moral quandary, quite aside from the fact that he's been having it off with a ghost. Then it pulls everything together for a beautiful finale which I didn't grasp, although it looked great!

Having said that, everything in this film is beautiful. It's a quite stunning film in that regard. These kinds of Japanese films set out in the middle of a forest almost feel like they're cheating a bit because it looks as though it's impossible to make them look any less than beautiful. But the wonderful movements of all the main characters on show, with Nobuko Otowa and Kei Sato slinking around the film almost like they really are the human embodiment of cats.

Wonderfully atmospheric, surprisingly vicious and less metaphorical than Onibaba, Kuroneko worked far better for me.

Steve G liked these reviews