Beautiful old ghost storyJust as I finished the review for The Complex, here's "Kaidan", another movie from "Ringu" director Hideo Nakata. It is very different in style and content from other J-horror movies, including Nakata's own, and establishes him as one of Japan's most versatile directors.
"Kaidan" is based on an old Japanese ghost story. Nakata emphasizes this by introducing a story teller who is shown during the stylized black and white opening and who later off-comments on the story. Which begins with a man who gets betrayed and killed by a samurai, but not before he puts a curse on his murderer. Many years later, the roguish samurai's son, who is now a poor tobacco seller, coincidentally meets the slain man's elder daughter, who is now a respectable teacher of singing and music. They fall in love with another, not knowing that they share a murderous past. And not knowing that there will be blood, thanks to the curse.
"Kaidan" is a pleasure to the eye. The historical costumes, buildings, and scenery are beautiful. Nearly every frame of the movie is carefully arranged like a painting. I watched it twice, once dubbed and once with subtitles, but each time I sometimes forgot to listen or read since I was absorbed by the images.
Hitomi Kuroki's performance as the elder daughter is outstanding. She has a soulful face that seems to mirror even the tiniest fugitive thought. Unfortunately, the performance of the male lead, Kikunosuke Onoe, pales in comparison to hers.
If I had to put this movie in a genre, I'd say it's a romantic historical horror drama. Maybe it has too few horror for horror fans, or too few romance for romance fans. But if you can appreciate a unique film that is both uncanny and beautiful, "Kaidan" is highly recommended.
Rating: 8 out of 10 kimonos.