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Kwaidan – Review June 30, 2009

Posted by Cello in Asian Horror Reviews.

Most societies have part of their foundations based at least partly on the existence of otherworldly beings, and Japan is no different. Kwaidan is the kind of film that washes over you without much worry for whether or not you’re following its story. And considering the movie is based on four simplistic short stories/fairy tales, you probably won’t care about the meat of the story. However, to experience this movie is to place yourself in the hands of a master craftsman.  Director Masaki Kobayashi creates his atmosphere from his images, which are a marvel. You’ll see colors, lines and curves used in masterful ways to heighten or relax the intensity of each shot.

Visually beautiful and with some cool special effects, this is a quartet of Japenese horror ghost stories that have very few scares, although there is the odd frisson of eeriness in a couple of them. The first story, The Black Hair, concerns a man who, through “the thoughtlessness of youth and the experience of desire,” leaves his wife and his life of poverty with her in order to marry someone with money. But as he lives with his new wife, thoughts of the woman he left haunt him, and he begins to realize that he loved her.


Truth be told, the other stories are pretty cookie cutter to where I don’t really have to get into them, such as two woodcutters, a man and his uncle, are trying to get home through a blizzard. Regardless of originality, these stories are all intriguing and unnerving, and the tales combined with Kobayashi’s great technical style heighten the overall experience of watching the movie.

Kobayashi even handled the recording of the post-audio, and did the synching himself. Truly, his vision was undeniable, as the film garnered many awards and recognitions, including the 1965 Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Prize. Kwaidan looks surprisingly good viewed 36 years later on the new Criterion Collection DVD.  would go so far as to suggest that Kwaidan is a good document for film students to study to learn how to make films outside the MTV school. I don’t review horror films that often on Japan Cinema, but when I do, you shuld take notice, because there is usually very good reason for doing so.



1. goregirl - June 30, 2009

I rented this from the library a few months back. Great review…I absolutely agree. Visually, this film is stunning. Not scary, but the haunting tales are engrossing.

Cello - June 30, 2009

ok good, I thought I was being over critcal when I said it wasn’t that scary, I didn’t want to seem like I was undermining my audience. Glad I’m not alone. By the way, I’m running out of asian horror to review, if you ever have any recommendations I could sure use your wisdom 🙂

2. goregirl - June 30, 2009

Two Japanese Films I love (and there are MANY!), ‘Zatôichi The Blind Swordsman'(the Takeshi Kitano version…I actually have never watched the old films) and ‘ONIBABA’ -one of my absolute all time favorite horror films. It’s from 1964, but it is a very gritty, grimy, and powerful story.
Also, ‘STACY’, which I love so much. I REALLY hesitate in recommending this one as it is pretty low budget, and frankly, a lot of people detest this film.

3. hagiblog - July 1, 2009

When you watch way too much horror like me, not much is scary anyway. But if the stories are good and the movie is as visually stunning as you guys are talking about than I’ll have to check it out.

Cello - July 1, 2009

Yeah, thats why when you recommend a horror movie I get hyped, I watched Recycle on Sunday, I’ll try to have a review up next week, needless to say, you were right.

hagiblog - July 1, 2009

Awesome, I’m looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to say about that one. That was easily one of the most visually exciting movies I’ve seen.

4. sinema izle - July 6, 2009

I wish I loved your site success 🙂

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