Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Ghost of Kasane












Ghost of Kasane, The

Original Title: Kaidan Kasane-ge-fuchi
Directed by: Nobuo Nakagawa, Japan, 1957 Horror / Drama, 66 min, Black and White Distributed by: Beam Entertainment / Eclipse Films

Story:
Blind masseur Soetsu leaves his loving wife and infant daughter Rui one night and goes to collect a debt from a neighbour samurai. But the samurai is arrogant and refuses to pay up, and when Soetsu pushes him harder to repay the debt, the samurai nonchalantly swipes out his sword and murders Soetsu. Realising what he has done in his outburst of anger, the samurai drags Soetsu’s body to the nearby swamp where he buries it deep in the waters. Later the same night the ghost of Soetsu appears in front of the killer and scares him into madness. In his rage of fear and fury the samurai accidentally killing his wife. Which leaves the samurai with no choice but to take his own life. Twenty years later the now grown daughter or Soetsu, Rui [Kazuko Wakasugi], has fallen in love with a young man called Shinkichi [Takashi Wada], but she could never have known that he actually is the son of her father’s murderer.

Where their innocent love should bloom and evolve it quite rapidly becomes evident that Soetsu’s curse will continue for many generations and pretty soon everyone connected to the curse find them selves face to face with ghosts and terrifying death.

Me:
Based on author Enchô San'yuutei’s traditional horror novel Shinkei Kasane ga fuchi from 1859, which quickly became a popular favourite in Japan due to it’s what goes around comes around approach not to far from the eastern way of karmic philosophies. To date there have been some seven different versions of Shinkei Kasane ga fuchi spanning from 1928 to the early seventies, and there was also three TV serials based on the novel. Ghost of Kasane is an early Nakagawa film in many aspects, and his version of San'yuutei’s tale of humanity and revenge from beyond the grave is a wonderful early piece of cinema from in my opinion on of the really great Japanese “Horror” directors. Ok so it’s kind of wrong to label Nakagawa as a horror director as he directed some thirty plus films, but it’s his creepy low paced horror films of the later part of his career that he has come to be mostly know for. There are not too many shocks as we have grown accustomed to them during the last few years of Asian horror, but there are still a few very good moments. The effects are often quite few but when Nakagawa brings them on they work. You have to remember that this film was shot in 57, and being of that time period it’s very well crafted. The sudden shocking transformation of Kazuko Wakasugi from sombre Rui to the hideously deformed monster is very effective, and the restrained way that Nakagawa shows her to us, at first reflected in the waters, is a very good build up to the climactic finale.
The tale unravels in a nice controlled pace, the opening murders and death, the love plot between Rui and Shinkichi, and this is where Nakagawa chooses to focus on the empathy between the two and the people who know them and their forbidden feelings for each other. Obviously they are from different families and classes so their love doesn’t come without social complications. It’s Nakagawa’s focus on the empathy that makes this movie stick out. It’s honestly really a love story with a ghost curse delicately woven in to create a sad and spooky tale where the fate of the main characters has already been decided through the sins of their ancestors.

I probably wouldn’t recommend this movie for anyone trying to find “new” treats within the world of Asian horror, for that I’d probably tell you to check out The Ghost of Yotsuya from 1959 or the masterful Jigoku from 1960, but if you’ve been around the block a few times and want something you haven’t seen then this one might just be right up your street.

Image:
Black and White 4:3, Optional English Subtitles.

Audio:
Dolby Digital 2.0

Extras:
Biograpies and Filmograpies, but in Japanese
This since long out of print version of The Ghost of Kasane, can be purchased through
SASORI-41

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