tek's rating: ½

Kwaidan (not rated)
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This Japanese anthology film (whose title translates as "Ghost Stories") came out in 1965 (ten years before I was born). The four stories are based on Japanese folk tales. I first watched it in 2018, a few days before Halloween. It's something I'd been wanting to see for several years, and I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did, but it was okay.

The Black Hair
The first story in the anthology is about a samurai from Kyoto, who falls into poverty. He divorces his wife and moves away to accept a position as a governor, or something. At first I wasn't sure why he couldn't just bring his wife with him, but then we learn he only got the position by marrying into a wealthy family. However, he is unhappy with his new wife (who is also unhappy with him). Years pass, and when his term of service is up, he returns to Kyoto, hoping to reconcile with his ex-wife. She seems very happy to see him. It's not until the next day that we finally get some horror in the story, and it was pretty much what I was expecting to happen. Anyway, I didn't particularly care for the story.

The Woman of the Snow
This was my favorite story in the film, perhaps partly because I was previously a bit familiar with the type of spirit that appears in it, a yuki-onna. Also I think I may have heard or read some version of this story before. Anyway, there's an old woodcutter named Mosaku, and his 18-year-old apprentice, Minokichi, who walk a few miles to a forest every day to cut wood, and then return with it to their village. One day, on their way home, they get caught in a blizzard, and take refuge in a boatman's hut, beside a river. (The boatman is on the other side, I guess, and the storm is too fierce for traveling over the river.) Then a yuki-onna (woman of the snow) comes into the hut, and uses her icy breath to freeze Mosaku to death. She's about to do the same to Minokichi, but decides to take pity on him. (The otaku in me found it amusing that she described him as "bishounen.") But she tells him that if he ever tells anyone else about her, she'll know it, and she'll kill him. Well, after the storm has passed, he returns home, but the cold weather has left him very sick, and his mother nurses him back to health. A year later, he's back at his woodcutting job, and on his way home, he meets a woman who says she's lost her parents, and is on her way to Edo to look for work. She ends up staying with Minokichi and his mother, and before long she marries him. Over the next several years, she bears him three children, and they have a very happy life. But there's something about her that I felt was entirely predictable (and would have been even if her name wasn't Yuki; seriously how was that not a dead giveaway?) Well... I won't say how it ends. Despite it's not being terribly surprising, I still thought it was a pretty good story.

Hoichi the Earless
This begins with a battle at sea between two rival samurai clans. Centuries later, there's a Buddhist temple near the site of the battle, where a blind, young biwa-player named Hoichi lives. One night when he is alone in the temple, a samurai comes and insists Hoichi go with him to play for his lord, and chant the tale of the battle. This happens night after night, and the other people who work at the temple begin to wonder where he goes each night. Finally, one stormy night, the head priest sends a couple of people out to look for him and bring him back. Once they learn that he's been playing for ghosts (which he himself didn't realize), two of the priests draw some holy text all over his body, so that when the samurai ghost comes again, he won't be able to see Hoichi. Unfortunately, the priests neglected to write the text on Hoichi's ears, so... that plan doesn't go so well. But in spite of all that, the story does actually have a somewhat happy ending, I guess.

In a Cup of Tea
This begins with some narration about how there are some old stories that were never finished, and then we see one of them played out. There was a writer who was writing a story about a samurai who looks into a cup of tea, and sees the face of a strange man. At first, the samurai is too scared to drink the tea, and dumps it out. But when it keeps happening, he finally decides to drink the tea, anyway. Later that night, while he is standing guard in a palace or whatever, the strange man appears to him in person, though he seems to be a ghost. The samurai battles him, and apparently wounds him (somehow), then the man disappears. The samurai rouses the whole household, and all the other samurai run around looking for the intruder, before learning he couldn't have been real. Later, on the samurai's day off, he is visited by three representatives of the stranger, and he tries battling them, as well. But the story remains unfinished. Then we see the writer's publisher show up looking for the writer, who has disappeared. And... well, the reason he didn't finish the story is apparently revealed. I guess? I dunno. It's weird.

So anyway... I don't know else to say, except that I'm glad to have finally seen the movie.

classic horror index
Asian horror index
anthology horror index
folk horror index