To prelude my review, I should advise that I'm fairly new to Japanese cinema, having only seen about twenty-five movies, and not all of these were horror. If my attempt to contribute here is frowned upon by the genre's enthusiasts due to a lack of cinematic experience, I apologize profusely. For those still interested, thank you, and here goes...
Briefly, Jigoku tells the story of a young man weighted down by the guilt of his role in a fatal hit-and-run accident. Consequential manisfestations of said incident saturate this movie's duration until our protagonist's nightmarish descention into Hell.
Any admiration I can muster for this movie revolves strictly around its apparent boldness. Jigoku was filmed in 1960, and from what I've seen of Japanese horror, the surrounding five to ten years produced mostly artistic and angular scary movies that, to me, unfolded with a wonderful grace. (Onibaba, 1964, for example.) Jigoku, literally, took a giant saw to the backbone of this norm. Desensitized as I am, it was still a pleasant shock to see some of what Director Nobuo Nakagawa was trying to present.
This praise, however, ebbs when I consider what else was happening in horror cinema at the same time elsewhere on the planet. I hate to push a trite reference, but Alfred Hitchcock's Pyscho also came out in 1960. It's probably rude to compare the two in this forum, but I'm trying to make the point that Jigoku, to me, doesn't seem to have aged well.
I didn't enjoy the movie. I found the acting to be choppy and even obnoxious at times. (Which, now that I think about it, would be the best way for me to describe the abrubt, even jarring jumps from scene to scene. Not impressed.) A regular dose of glass-shattering screeches from the female actresses had me reaching uncomfortably for the volume on my remote on more than one occasion, which unfortunately had to happen during some of the film's best offerings. I'm sure this can be blamed largely on sound quality of that era and on Japanese horror in general. I've watched enough to know that screaming Asian females can hit notes of a murderous pitch. It hurts.
That being said, I think this is a movie that SHOULD be watched, if only for its importance. I was glad when it was over, but I knew that I had seen something that broke a fairly thick mold in its day. It's a trippy movie filmed on one of the most inventive sets I've seen from that time. This alone, which occupies only the last 20-30 minutes of the movie, has earned my humble recommendation.
It's definitely one of those movies that make for great conversation and I'm glad I can now weigh in on it.
Thank you for your time.
- t -
6 June, 2010