Nippo-Gothic horror fables have a long tradition of proto-feminist outragethe metaphysical issue of the genre almost always revolves around rape and sexual vulnerability in a feudal landscape. Kaneto Shindôs Kuroneko (1968), finally making its New York premiere, may take the cake. The now-98-year-old Japanese directors film is a throat-biting version of I Spit on Your Graves revenge cycle, with the action perpetrated by a mother/daughter-in-law pair of gang-raped corpses, reincarnated as feline vampires and leaving behind a stream of samurai bodies in their wake. (Pre-evisceration, the moms ponytail flips like a stalking cats tail.) Shindô muddies the water with the return of the moms fabled son, shanghaied into war and now a chieftains officer, whos told to eliminate whatever is haunting Rashomon Gate at night and drinking gallons of man-blood. Shindôs evocation of the central haunted bamboo grove is all night shadows and luminescent mist, even when were inside the ghosts illusory house, which sometimes, via a deftly conceived double exposure, appears to glide through the dark forest on its own. But the mood doesnt mitigate the tragic political chill of the final, limb-hacking, back-flipping mother-son faceoff, which pits patriarchal might against aeons of angry women.
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