Kuroneko (1968)

Kuroneko (1968), directed by Kaneto Shindo.

(Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko, "A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove").

Another "Angry Ghost" story, like Kwaidan (1964).

Hungry soldiers appear like spirits from the woods surrounding the house of a woman and her daughter-in-law. The men's priorities, in order: water, food, rape, arson, murder. They fade like spirits into the woods again, but this is not the last we have seen of spirits.

Two ghosts begin haunting Rashomon (1950) gate. They lure lone samurai to their house deep in the bamboo woods, seduce them and toy with them like cats before ripping out their throats with their teeth, also cat-like.

They have made a pact with the demon world: the women may return to earth so they can kill samurai. Every samurai in the world.

This first half is creepy enough, but it takes a sad turn when their son and husband returns from battle and is given the job of dealing with the ghosts. He too is now samurai. It becomes less of a horror film and more a meditation on love: lost, regained, gone bad. We have an erotic ghost story segment.

That ghosts can grieve as well as be angry and want revenge: it suggested to me a plot device that might be used in other stories. Just as our world has its weather and tides, so might the spirit world have movements that bring the ghosts closer to us at times.

Some unsettling ghost-world visuals; I particularly like the lighted house moving silently through the bamboo grove like a ship at sea.

The score does this thing I have noticed in other Japanese ghost-story films: a creepy-ass percussion that intimates spirit presences which the characters cannot see.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion.