Inugami (2001)
By: M. Walsh on September 16, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Stomp Visual (Australia). Region 2 & 4 PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0, Japanese DTS 5.1. English Subtitles. 105 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Masato Harada
Starring:Yuki Amami, Atsuro Watabe, Eugene Harada, Shiho Fujimura
Screenplay: Masato Harada
Country: Japan
Inugami is not really a horror film. This simple fact is going to make all the difference in regards to one's enjoyment of this little gem from director Masato Harada. This means that malicious ghosts with long black hair do not make an appearance. This also means that the skies are not heavy with rain for the majority of the running time, the colour palette of the film does not consist entirely of grey with the occasional splash of black and, although childbirth and parentage are both major themes in the film, children only very rarely appear on screen. There is also a sexual awareness in Inugami that helps to distinguish it from other films in the J-Horror cannon.

Miki Bonomiya (Yuki Amami) is a middle-aged paper maker. She sells her wares to Seiji Doi (Eugene Harada) who in turn provides the small village where Miki works with a sizeable income. Into this village comes a teacher, Akira Nutahara (Atsuro Watabe) whose fascination with Miki is immediate. What Akira doesn't know is that women in the Bonomiya family are sworn protectors of the Inugami: Wild Dog Gods. If one of these Dog Gods escapes then the entire village could be placed in peril. If the Dog Gods are unleashed, however, then the consequences could be far worse.

The plot is far more involved and, yes, convoluted than this but Inugami's pleasures lie in the details. There are some wonderful moments of visual storytelling in the film and it is these sections that provide enough of a respite to ease the viewer through some of the narrative stumbling blocks. There are also two major twists in the film, only one of which I didn't see coming. However, these "reveals" are handled with such understatement that they never feel obtrusive or gimmicky. Speaking of gimmicks, the film is divided into five "chapters" and, while this is a conceit that I feel has been overused to the point of redundancy, their inclusion here is an example of one of the better uses of this framing device.

At its heart, Inugami is a contemplative and very serious examination of custom and superstition, and how these generational beliefs can afflict and undermine entire families throughout time. It is also a love story, a domestic soap opera and, in its own way, a dark fairy tale. Inugami also has a wonderfully strange sense of humour, particularly evident during a short, but wonderfully unexpected, "autopsy" scene.

For those who have become bored and jaded by the cross-cultural saturation of "slow bore" horror films, in both their native and American iterations, then Inugami could very well be the prescription you were looking for.
Video
Although the overall image quality is a tad on the "soft and bright" side, the colour reproduction is top notch and flesh tones are very natural. I noticed some instances of (minimal) print damage during the film's opening 10 minutes, but they were sparse and fleeting. Edge enhancement again makes an appearance here, which is unfortunate without being overly distracting. The subtitles, which are removable, are really well placed and of a very high quality.
Audio
I was unable to preview the DTS mix of this disc. However, the Dolby Digital 2.0 is clear, well produced, and perfectly balanced. I'm unsure as to why so many of these Stomp Visual DVD's don't seem to offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 alternative, but perhaps that complaint says a lot more about me then it does about the disc.
Extra Features
A selection of trailers for Shikoku, Inugami, Isola and Shadow of the Wraith.
The Verdict
There is much to enjoy, and respect, about this lyrical, deliberately paced film. There may not be enough in the way of visceral horror to satisfy the really gore-hungry, but it will certainly provide a gentle diversion while you wait for Wolf Creek's imminent release. It may not be the complete reinvention of the Japanese horror film that some of us are still waiting for, but it is intelligent and well made and that is a lot more than I can say for most of the films I have seen lately.
Movie Score
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