Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Bride from Hades (1968)

Wow wow wow, if a new discovery can get me this fired up this far into the engorgement of October, it must be pretty special indeed.  I like what I've seen from older Japanese horror, but I haven't delved deeply enough into it if gems like The Bride from Hades are waiting to be unearthed.


The Hades of the title is a good fit.  A movie entitled The Bride from Hell might make you shudder in anticipation of shrieky gore or a shrieky Melissa McCarthy """comedy""".  But Hades is a different, older concept—not so much a place of pitchforks and punishment as languid shadows.  We begin this movie with a lantern festival celebrating the onset of a three-day holiday in which the dead ascend from Hades and walk the Earth.


Our hero, Mr. Shinzaburo, devotes his time to teaching the poor to read.  He attends the lantern festival to assist the poor in their lantern ghost invocations as well.  There, he meets two ladies, one of whom will quickly posit herself as a romantic fixture in his life.


Problem: she is dead.  And encounters between the dead and the living in this film don't end well for the latter.  A sort of vampiric draining of energy seems to result.  Naturally, Shinzaburo's community is not enthused at losing such a good dude.  But it's not like the ghosts here are monsters.  The film goes to great lengths to make them very sympathetic figures and the whole thing is suffused in slow, quiet drama rather than intense shocks.


Everything here is on point.  If you're impatient with Ben Carson-tempo slow burns, you might not be able to sit still for this.  But you'd be missing out on plotting and acting that are masterfully executed, and a horror film with more atmosphere than anything I've seen in years.  


****

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