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The descendant of the servant of a cruel and vicious samurai returns to the town where she was born, only to find that a cat who is possessed by the spirits of those murdered by the samurai is trying to kill her.
This haunting, beautiful, and atmospheric Japanese ghost story is set in the days of feudal Japan and tells of an evil rich family making life miserable for farmers working their land. When one farmer dies, his wife Sue (Chiaki Tsukioka) and daughter Asa (Yukiko Kuwahara) are made to work for domineering landlord Cyobei Onuma (Seizaburo Kawazu). Unspeakable tragedies befall this family, who just can't seem to catch a break. Poor Asa is continuously harassed by Onumas' sleazy son Takeo (Shingo Yamashiro), for one thing. During this period in history, it was considered an unwise move to kill a snake, and when the landlord & family have a serpent killed on their premises, it sort of kick starts a slow but steady turn in their fortunes.
"Snake Woman's Curse" is powerfully affecting, especially when one thinks of the misfortune that comes Asas' way. One just can't help but take some great pity on her and her parents. Even though one worker named Sutematsu (Kunio Murai) feels compassion for Asa, and swears that he will marry her, he doesn't always see things her way. When Takeo goes after her, Sutematsu is disgusted that she didn't try harder to fend off his advances and maybe kill him in the attempt. Screenwriter Fumio Konami & screenwriter / director Nobuo Nakagawa certainly build up quite a deal of contempt for our heartless antagonists.
He also commendably plays this *just* right. Although there is a sufficient amount of grotesque imagery and makeup effects to add to various hallucinations, it's also quite possible that what the Onuma family experience is all in their heads, and that guilt is catching up with them. The compelling nature of the melancholy scenario is supplemented by that breathtaking scenery and widescreen photography. Also, Konami & Nakagawa take the trouble to balance some of the grief of the story with some well timed, and not excessive, comedy. Kameshichi, played by Shunji Sayama, is our principal comic relief character and he does a pretty amusing job.
With lovely music by Shunsuke Kikuchi as accompaniment, "Snake Woman's Curse" manages to be an effectively eerie (if never all-out scary) shocker that also establishes a certain sympathy for the slithering cast members. The finale and resolution are quite memorable.
Seven out of 10.
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