Japanese Kaidan Films

So it seems this genre doesn’t pop up that much here among our astute movie aficionados. Lets see if I can stir up some interest or discussion for some of these wonderful films.

Japanese Kaidans are movies based on century old ghost stories & take place in ancient Japan. The term ‘Kaidan’ literally means supernatural story. The unofficial span of these movie seems to be from around 1940-1970. Many are variations of similar stories, sometime revolving around cats, bodies of water & (duh) ghosts.

Kwaidan 1964 seems to be the Citizen Kane of the genre. It contains 4 different haunting tales & it is definitely an epic in Asian cinema. It’s filmed in ‘glorious’ technicolour & they use bright colors to set moods masterfully. The film is methodically paced (reminding me a bit of OUATITW). While most are not set on such a large scale, they all provide the same eerie atmosphere & tragic tales.

Just about every one I’ve seen so far has awesome sets & impressively creepy imagery for it’s day

^ And yes, that’s a ghost being holding a cat/human arm in her mouth :smiley:

Let me take this time to try & spark some interest in this amazing sub-genre or gets some opinions from those who have dabbled in it. Beware Phil, you might just be on your next genre exploration :stuck_out_tongue:

This does indeed look like interesting stuff.
Where are you getting these flicks from I…I…? I checked Cinemageddon but no sign of this one it seems.


Here is a place you can find some of them…


This guy does amazingly great quality fan-subbed discs of some excellent Japanese films.
I am a regular customer!

So far, I have yet to see a Japanese “Kaidan” film that I didn’t enjoy.

Any recommendations Chris? So far I’ve seen…

Ghost Story of Yotsuya(Tôkaidô Yotsuya Kaidan)
Ghost Cat Of The Cursed Pond
Ghost Cat Of Otoma Pond
Kaidan Yuki Jorou

Kwaidan is a bit too popular for CG Phil. But I suggest starting on some of the others first. You wouldn’t suggest OUATITW to a first time viewer of SW’s, would you? Well maybe you would but you see my point.

I have this on my plate next…

All good ones, I…I…!
Hope you enjoy MANSION OF THE GHOST CAT (Borei Kaibyoyashiki)!

Here are a few more you might try to track down.
I speak and understand a little Japanese–usually enough to follow films without subtitles—so, forgive me if some of the titles I list might be a bit tough to find in a format that is English friendly.

UGETSU — Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi Kenji 1953) ***one of my favorites and readily available via a Criterion DVD release with English subs.

GHOSTS OF KASANE SWAMP - Kaidan Kasane ga Fuchi (Nakagawa Nobuo 1957)

KAIDAN - (Hideo Nakata 2007)

SNAKE WOMAN’S CURSE - Kaidan Hebi Onna (Nobuo Nakagawa 1968)

GHOST IN THE WELL - Kaidan Bancho Sarayashiki (Kono Toshikazu 1957)

That’s about all I can think of, at the moment.
You listed a lot of the best ones, already, brother!

Thanks Chris. Ugetsu is new to me. The others I have on the radar. I’ll post my reviews here from now on for those who want to check in.

I have seen Kaidan, Ghost story of Yotsuya and Onibaba.

By far my favorite is Yotsuya. Its just a masterpiece. I director Nakagawa has been described as the Mario Bava of J Horror. Criterion has the rights to it but inexplicably it remains unreleased.

On a side not, my mother actually saw Yotsuya in a Hong Kong theatre when it first came out as a teenager. It scared the shit out of her and her friends.

Chris, thanks for recommending Nakagawa’s other film, Snake women’s curse. I just saw that its available on R1 by Synapse. I better pick that one up.

Just thought of another one…

GHOST STORY OF OIWA - Kaiden Oiwa no Borei (Kato Tai 1961)

Also, there is Nakagawa Nobuo’s film: JIGOKU- Hell (1960).

Definitely worth checking out…even though it isn’t exactly a “Kaidan” film. It is one of the most influential horror films from Japan. Very good stuff!
Don’t get it confused with several other films that are called JIGOKU, though. Make sure you are seeing the original from 1960.

I have a re-make of “Jigoku” directed by Teruo Ishii, it seems to be a fairly recent film, and features a lot of gore and some perverse situations; I also love this genre of Jap films, to me “KWAIDAN”/ KURENKO/ ONIBABA / JIGOKU 1960 are the best i’ve seen so far…somebody i know has a Jap film called “DECAPITATION ISLAND” on his list,(1970) i know nothing about this title, anyone seen it? Still recovering from having watched “SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST”…

I was a little disappointed in Kwaidan. Despite some memorable imagery, I found it too lethargic for its own good. Maybe I was expecting something different - it is a legendary film, with legions of admirers. I ought to watch it again at some point.

Onibaba is excellent, though, truly haunting and intense. I have Jigoku also - really bizarre film

Definitely an area I need to explore further.

I see your point about Kwaidan but if you know that going in, you’re more likely to enjoy it. It’s kinda like watching a beautiful slideshow at times. And at a 3 hour runtime, you can watch a story or 2 at a time if you so choose.

On the other hand, I was a but disappointed in Onibaba, despite all the titties bouncing around. :o I feel it took way to long to develop & the fact that it takes place entirely in the field of reeds gives it a bit of an awkward (I know that’s what they were going for but…) feeling. It’s not really even a ghost story. I believed the hype a bit too much.

That site looks great. Bookmarked!

Mansion Of The Ghost Cat 1958

Another version of the Ghost Cat…saga/series/whatever you’d call it. This one was not as strong as some of the others I’ve seen so far. The movie is basically halved into the modern story & the flashback tale that explains what’s going on. The modern story (filmed ironically in B&W) is filmed well & the story works effectively, it’s when the movie goes back in time to show the origin of the cat curse where it loses some of it’s effectiveness. This part of the film is a bit to deliberate. You see way too much of the demons & leave nothing to the imagination. Also, the ghost cat demon is a bit too animated where as in other installments of this Kaidan, the cat possession is a bit more subtle & believable. Not a bad film by any means but after seeing basically the same tale told in different variations, it’s inevitable that some will shine brighter than others.

I didn’t really like Onibaba either. It wasn’t scary enough. There was not supernatural horror elements.

Ghost Story of Yotsuya on the other hand, was made with the sole purpose of scaring the audience. Its a true horror film, and years, maybe even decades ahead of its time.

Kwaidan I thought was excellent but ironically, the Toshi the Earless segment I found to be the weakest of the three, even though it seems to be the most celebrated segment in the film.

Count me among those that find ONIBABA somewhat overrated. I like it OK, but…frankly…it isn’t exactly what I would call one of my all-time favorites.

Hiroku Kaibyoden aka The Haunted Castle 1969

Another, but very good version of the Ghost Cat tale. This one goes into a bit more detail for some specifics of the story. But this, unlike MOTGC is genuinely scary with demon ghosts a but more believable & definitely more eerie. The soundtrack is better as well, from the sound effects to the score, both adding another level of horror to this version.

This tale focuses more on the cat possession than previous versions of this story. A lot is filmed at night & also in the rain, adding to the atmosphere.

This goes highly recommended.

Am I the only person who doesn’t find cats all that scary?

…And Robert Smith from The Cure :wink:

Do not find cats scary, but find alot of them clever souls.