Day 3: Kuroneko
Premise: A mother and her daughter-in-law are raped and murdered by a group of marauding samurai. After being resurrected by black cats (which is apparently a thing in Feudal Japan), their ghostly spirits trick and murder passing samurai in vengeance.
However, after enough samurai turn up dead with their throats bitten out (apparently the preferred method of execution for demon cat ghost ladies), a recently promoted samurai warrior, Gintoki, is sent out to find and destroy these demon ghosts, unaware that they’re actually the ghosts of his own mother and fiance…
*soap music starts playing*
Huh. So I guess that makes two Japanese horror movies in a row about women/girls dying tragically before being resurrected as creepy ghosts. Weird coincidence. …Well, okay, maybe not that weird, since there are like 20 famous Japanese horrors with the same premise, but still.
However, where Dark Water felt more like a modern creepy urban legend ghost story, this movie more resembles a spooky old folk tale than anything else. Not tremendously terrifying, but the sort of solid story that you could easily see having been passed down through the ages, more akin to Baba Yaga than Sadako. And I feel like that both works and doesn’t work to this film’s advantage.
The first thing I will say though is that this movie isn’t really all that openly scary, at least as far as I was concerned. Oh sure, there were some spooky and unsettling moments, but they were spooky in a fairly low-key sort of way. The ways the ghosts seemed to fly through the air and move unnaturally smoothly was a genuinely fairly cool visual, but it’s about as genuinely frightening as you’re going to get.
Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, there are plenty of horror movies out there that I enjoy a lot in spite of not really being all that afraid of them. That said, I don’t feel like this really clicked with me quite right. I didn’t dislike it by any means, but it didn’t hit me as strongly as the other movies I’ve watched thus far on this.
The thing is, behind all the ghost story stuff, Kuroneko kinda feels like an old-timey Japanese melodrama. Lots of melodramatic acting and monologues and Japanese cultural stuff that I’m not entirely sure I got. And, to be perfectly honest, Japanese melodramas aren’t really my thing? Don’t get me wrong, like I said, there were a lot of things I liked about it. As much as I decried the movie for ‘not being all that scary’, a lot of the times when the ghosts get to really show their shit and do ghostly stuff is genuinely pretty cool to watch and has a lot of visuals that do hold up. It’s just that when the emotional melodrama turns up… Well, again, it’s not really my kind of thing.
Still, I can’t say that this movie isn’t worth watching and if that sort of old-timey melodrama-y ghostly folk tale sounds like it might interest you then definitely check it out. It just wasn’t really for me is all.
Is it Scary?: Not really.
Is it Silly: Kinda. The fact that the ghosts turn out to be cats was a little goofy.
Overall Grade: B/B-