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As Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is part of my MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature this weekend, I thought I’d review this 1968 Japanese chiller that I strongly suspect had an influence on the iconic scene of the resurrection of Selena Kyle/birth of Catwoman…

Kuroneko is a spooky 1968 Japanese ghost story that tells the tale of two women, young wife Shige (Kiwako Taichi) and mother-in-law Yone (Nobuko Otowa), who are raped and murdered by a group of rogue samurai. As their bodies lay in the ruins of their burned home, a single black cat comes and licks their corpses…a scene that I feel inspired Selena Kyle’s resurrection in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns…and the two women become vengeful spirits who lure samurai to their doom and drink their blood. The story becomes complicated when young samurai Gintoki (Kichiemon Nakamura), who’s sent to deal with the supernatural killers, turns out to be the son/husband of the two murderous specters. Can he destroy the spirits of those he loved most despite their evil ways…and can they resist their thirst for vengeance and blood and not kill him?

Kuroneko is sumptuously filmed in black and white with some very spooky visuals and a very atmospheric style by Kaneto Shindo. His knows how to create tension with his camera and his visual and editing style, at times, evokes comparisons to more contemporary filmmaker David Lynch, although more restrained. His actors perform very well, his two female stars help Shindo achieve a successful blend of the supernatural world and the living when the ghostly women interact with the flesh and blood characters. They are menacing at times and sympathetic at others. Shindo switches story elements from horror to supernatural love story and back to horror for the climax, without disrupting the narrative flow and his actors keep up with him to the full benefit of the story and thus those watching. A very spooky and unusual, but ultimately very satisfying ghost story.

Rated 3 (out of 4) black cats!

kuroneko rating