An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
This film contains four distinct, separate stories. "Black Hair": A poor samurai who divorces his true love to marry for money, but finds the marriage disastrous and returns to his old wife, only to discover something eerie about her. "The Woman in the Snow": Stranded in a snowstorm, a woodcutter meets an icy spirit in the form of a woman spares his life on the condition that he never tell anyone about her. A decade later he forgets his promise. "Hoichi the Earless": Hoichi is a blind musician, living in a monastery who sings so well that a ghostly imperial court commands him to perform the epic ballad of their death battle for them. But the ghosts are draining away his life, and the monks set out to protect him by writing a holy mantra over his body to make him invisible to the ghosts. But they've forgotten something. "In a Cup of Tea": a writer tells the story of a man who keep seeing a mysterious face reflected in his cup of tea. Written by
Although most of the vignettes acknowledge a passage of time, in some cases several years, the months of principle action in the film are, in order, September, December, March, and February (or New Year's Day of the Fourth Tenwa). See more »
This is one of my favorite horror films, and I daresay one of my favorite films in general as well. Anyone who doubts that a horror film can be great art as well ought to give this one a try.
I will have to revisit this comment after viewing the film again, as it has been a while, but there were a few comments I thought people might find useful regarding the stories the film adapted.
Two of the stories can be found in Lafcadio Hearn's book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. These are "Hoichi the Earless" ("The Story of Mimi-nashi-Hôïchi") and "The Woman in the Snow" ("Yuki-Onna"). The other two can be found in other books of Hearn's; I'm grateful to Kenji Inadomi for pointing out that "Black Hair" can be found as "The Reconciliation" in Shadowings, and "In a Cup of Tea" is to be found in Kotto: Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs.
Many of Hearn's stories can be found online, including all of the above except "In a Cup of Tea." Attractive early hardcovers of Hearn's books are pretty plentiful, though, and not terribly expensive either.
As some others have noticed, there's an uncredited adaptation of "The Woman in the Snow" as the "Lover's Vow" segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990). It's not bad, but Kaidan (1964) is the one that got it right.
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