Jigoku / Hell

Jigoku / Hell (1960)

Apparently there's no need to elaborate

Director: Nakagawa Nobuo
Writers: Nakagawa Nobuo, Miyagawa Ichirô
Date: 1960

Genre: Horror
Description: Hell, hell on earth, man’s sins, man is an animal, other evil things

Cast: Amachi Shigeru, Numata Yoichi, Mitsuya Utako, Arashi Kanjuro, Nakamura Torahiko, Miyata Fumiko, Ono Akiko

Crew of note:

Runtime: 101 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: I got this film by mistake, confusing it with Jigokumon. Hm, actually that doesn’t count as movie trivia.

Shirô and Tamura are classmates in university and friends. Sort of but not really, because Tamura’s pretty creepy and is also an asshole. One evening, on some remote dirt road, they accidentally run over a thug and quickly drive away from their crime. The thug’s mother and girlfriend vow to avenge the lowlife’s death, and with the growing guilt, Tamura’s weirdness, family troubles and some really terrible turn-of-events, the world slowly turns into HELL.

First of all, WTF was I thinking? I absolutely hate watching scary films, because seriously, why would I want to voluntarily give myself nightmares? Still, I have a long-standing curiosity about films with “Jigoku” in the title, and I somehow convinced myself to see this, knowing it was an important film.

So, was it worth it? Sort of, but not really (for me anyway). The movie is a difficult watch, even though it doesn’t involve any common horror tropes like monsters or ghosts or axe murderers. However, it becomes pretty obvious that outright scares isn’t the point of this movie at all. Rather, Nakagawa tries to create a depiction of Hell and Hell On Earth, not only with astounding visuals, but with mood and atmosphere as well.

The second half of the film usually gets the most attention because of its truly visionary and unparalleled representation of hell. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy. There are tons of things commonly associated with hell, but watch out for the water wheel–it’s possibly the scariest thing in hell, evar.

That said, the first part of the movie is also quite important. Before entering into hell, the world Shirô inhabits slowly turns for the worst; as I’ve said, turns into hell on earth. There is a sense of absurdity, of irrationality in many of the events that take place in the first half. And while it is somewhat annoying and way too depressing (and a little sappy), the message is quite clear. In fact, I found myself more disturbed during the first half than the second–life is what it is and is closer to fact, hell here is an interpretation.

Arashi Kanjuro in Jigoku / Hell

30 years to get from Tengu to Enma? Advancement opportunities my ass*

Thinking about this film is giving me the creeps so I’ll stop now. See this though if you aren’t a sissy?

I was thoroughly, completely freaked out while watching this film. It isn’t at all gorey, and really doesn’t have many horror-y moments. But it’s such an assault on your senses with its version of hell that it’s hard not to be a bit unnerved by the whole experience. Which is exactly the purpose of this movie, I guess. Not exactly a fun film to watch (unless you’re Satan, maybe), but certainly accomplished and significant in the development of the (psychological?) horror genre.

things to take note of
The many symbols and things, like the number 9
Hell on Earth
This is Buddhist hell, not Christian hell

best moment
Hell, duh

why you should watch this
Nakagawa Nobuo is the father is this thing called J-Horror, probably
This is the strangest, and possibly most precise depiction of not only Hell itself, but hell on Earth as well

rating: 7.9 but only because I don’t like scary movies

Plot: C+
Cast: C+
Cinematography: B+
Music: B
Entertainment: C+

similar movies, maybe:
For some reason, I get the same creepy vibe from Onibaba

* The “tengu”, used in Kurama Tengu (which Arashi starred in in 1928), is a Japanese folklore monster. Normally it’s translated as “goblin”, but this isn’t very accurate. The tengu is usually depicted as a man-like bird monster, or a dude with a really long nose. Imagine Adrien Brody with feathers and a scowl, maybe. Enma is the king of Buddhist hell. Also, do your own damn research.