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Cheap effects mar above average period ghost thriller
Set bound in the tradition of "Kwaidan" with a similar spooky traditional Japanese music soundtrack, Illusion of Blood is a competent and atmospheric period ghost story.
Set in an unsettled time in Japanese history, Tatsuya Nakadai plays a ronin who's wife is ordered back home by her father after he's lost his job as a samurai. Starving and forced to make paper umbrellas for a living, the ronin, Iuemon almost sells his sword but renege on the sale and decides to claim his wife back. Unfortunately her father is a cad and is forcing his daughters to prostitute themselves to feed him as he's a ronin also. The father reveals that he'll never agree to let his daughter back and he also knows that Iuemon stole money from their lord. Iuemon cracks and kills him. Meanwhile Iuemon's best friend has eyes for Iuemon's sister-in-law and he kills her husband the same night. Iuemon and his friend use the bodies to concoct a crime scene that points to an fictitious assailant. A changed man, a sulking, guilt ridden Iuemon mistreats his wife and his newborn baby. He connives to dump her so he can marry into a rich family and regain a samurai position. He obtains a "medicine" that causes instant facial deformity (!) and give it to his wife. The idea that if she's hideous he can dump without guilt. The medicine works too well and she dies in agony. The infant dies as well. This sets the stage for ghosts and haunting for the rest of the film.
Like many other Japanese films, there are few "good" guys to be found in this particular world. The two sisters are essentially the only good people but are endlessly abused and tormented by the evil around them. Another character can only do good when forced to the edge of terror or guilt. The film is very dark, much of it happens at night or indoors in shadows. The sets are very obvious and the special effects will be laughable to some. The story calls for rats. And for the rats to do things that real rats wouldn't do so there's a number of rat dolls being pulled around by wires. What carries the film is the performance of Tatsuya Nakadai. He is fascinating to watch. The story is contrived with way too many plot point coincidences but on an enjoyment level it comes out reasonably well. The film is a bit long at 105 minutes, I can't see what would be in a 190 minute version. I have doubts that there is one.
Interestingly the ending bears some similarity to another Tatsuya Nakadai film from the same year, "Sword of Doom".
Interestingly bleak film, you might like it. The director's "Portrait of Hell" is a better film.
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