Kuroneko is a japanese ghost film from 1968. It includes everything from ghostly images, to people flying through the air, to dreamlike imagery, to beautiful love.
A group of occupying samurai find a quiet home tucked away in the forest beyond the gates they are claiming, and inside they find two women - one older, one younger. They drink from their moat, gang rape the both of them, and then murder them by burning down the building. These women make a bond with the God of the Earth and the God of the Light to exact revenge by drinking the blood of all samurai. Our story begins quickly with their tragic death and then fast forwards to the younger one asking a samurai who is guarding the gate to accompany her to her home through the woods, and then they bite out their throats once they return to the ruined (but ghostly reassembled) home.
Meanwhile, another samurai has returned from battle and killing a major general. He has earned himself high honors, a rank, and a nickname. They then offer him the opportunity to find the ghosts that are killing them off and to kill it to send it to Hell. He accepts and finds the ghost and follows her home. Once he's inside though, he realizes that these are the ghosts of his wife and mother who have been missing.
From here it becomes less of a haunting ghost story and more of an ethereal love tale. Instead of killing him, the wife spends all her time with him making love and cuddling. This occurs over the course of a week. When he returns on the 7th day to see her, he finds out that she is permanently in Hell for going against her vow to kill the samurai.
And then a showdown persists between his mother who wants to spare him but must fulfill her vow, and the son who doesn't want to banish his mom to Hell but he realizes that she is now a shadow of the woman he used to know.
This movie is beautiful and has some scary imagery. There's a persistent shot where it shows a samurai riding a horse with the gate in the background, but its predominantly black with just one spot light on him and one on the top of the gate. It creates this ethereal imagery.
Kuroneko literally translates to 'Black Cat', and this is because the demonic ghosts reside in the form of a black cat when they are not in their human forms.
I really enjoyed it, and it seemed to be one of those movies you find at the right time. I unexpectedly lost an uncle this week who was really close with me, so I stayed home from work that night and watched this film. So when the samurai returns to see his wife and finds out she's now banished to Hell, him crying and screaming about how he wishes to see her one more time really cut me deep. So for this, I admit I may have a slight bias to this film, but it's really a wonderful title.
'Kuroneko' is now available for streaming on The Criterion Channel.
'Til Next Time, Mike Cleopatra