When it comes to horror movies, Japan is one of the masters. One of the first horror films in Japan was a 1926 silent film called Kurutta Ippēji aka A Page of Madness. It was a surreal story told in flashback about a man who works as a janitor in an insane asylum where his wife is locked up. The movie was once thought lost but a version of it was found minus some footage but at least it still exists.
Throughout the 1930’s and into the 1950’s several movies were made about the legend of the ghost cat. Usually it’s a woman who can transform into a ghost cat and murder people. The 1953 film Ghost-Cat of Arima Palace wasn’t the first but it kicked started the genre leading to sequels and influencing other variations. One of my favourites is the 1968 film Kuroneko. The ’50s also saw the rise of monster movies aka Kaiju movies like Godzilla.
The ’80s and ’90s saw the rise of gorier horror movies. By the time the 2000’s came around things had moved back to ghost stories and the ghost stories that were getting made influenced half the world. Movies like Ringu, Ju-on and Dark Water were popular enough that they started a remake craze in the U.S.
Today’s film is the 1960 horror film Jigoku. A student gets his friend to give him a ride home. On the way home, they accidentally run over a gangster. The student wants to go to the police. His buddy doesn’t, in fact he really doesn’t care about the man they killed. The student starts losing it and his girlfriend ends up getting killed in a car accident. The student goes back to his old village where his mother is dying. At the home where she is staying and his father owns, the residents there all seem to be hiding their own dark secrets. Things get darker from there.
The film was directed by Nobuo Nakagawa who had directed several horror movies including what might be the first Japanese vampire film, Vampire Moth. Without giving up too much of the plot, the film shifts to scenes of Hell near the end of the movie and while it was shot on a low budget, the scenes are creepy, surreal and frightening.