Directed by Masato Harada
Starring Yuki Amami (Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World), Atsuro Watabe
Akira Nutahara moves from Tokyo to start work as a teacher in a small village, he is fascinated by Miki Bonomiya a woman who makes paper by traditional means. Fascination turns to love till he is warned about a curse carried by the Bonomiya clan, the Inugami (Demon dog) borne by the females of the family.
The Bonomiyas were the most powerful family in the region and could trace their family roots back over many years. They are preparing to celebrate the clans 900th anniversary since their move from Kyoto but are on the verge of bankruptcy due to the bad business choices and gambling of the head of the household.
Shortly after Akiras arrival strange things start happening which the villagers instantly blame on the Bonomiyas and the Inugami, Akira puts this down to superstition and petty jealousy but the villagers hatch a plot to bring about the Bonomiyas downfall at their anniversary celebrations. Akira gets wind of this but what can he do to prevent it? He is one man and due to his relationship with Miki, neither the villagers nor the Bonomiyas can be bothered listening to him.
The Bonomiyas are more than a little mad themselves, years of inbreeding and self segregation plus the notion of the curse have driven them to the brink, the villagers arent the only ones who plan the clans downfall hampering Akiras efforts even more.
I have to say this is a film that could have easily shed a few scenes and still retained the important elements, it is drawn out at times but the scenes involving traditional methods of paper making are fascinating. The countryside is stunning, mountains covered in thick forests, winding roads with little villages dotted here and there, all incredibly beautiful and photogenic. What could have been cut were some of the countless clan meetings which become repetitive, family arguments just going round and round in never ending circles.
Labelled as a horror, this is more a film concerning superstition, fate, tradition and small town mentality. I cant delve into the deeper darker aspects of the plot without adding spoilers but there is definitely an Oedipus complex with additional complications rearing its head (unknowingly at first) but then with the full knowledge and acceptance of the participants.
An interesting story, definitely a grower with repeated viewings. Not a horror film in the sense of most modern horrors, there is no sign of the Demon dogs and only one or two moments that could be described as typical horror. Tough to recommend, only for those with patience. Inugami has a great sense of Japanese traditional values and skills trying to survive in the modern world.
BBFC rated 15
R2 Pal and R1 ntsc dvds available from Ventura.