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The Ninja Scroll  

Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Set in ancient Japan, Jubei, a ronin samurai rescues Kagero, a female ninja from the clutches of a nightmarish creature, whose company kills people in rather unusual but generally unpleasant ways. She is the only survivor of an investigative team sent to discover the reasons behind a plague sweeping the area. Jubei soon finds he is pulled against his will in being a pawn of forces against those not quite human, with the fate of mankind in his hands.

"The Ninja Scroll" is one of the more watchable examples of Japanime horror. It derives its horror from two things: supernatural monsters and sex. Lots of both. And they mix, often and frequently. It fascinates and disturbs at the same time, perhaps because something so intimate and so invasive is being done by something so disgusting. Japanime is the only genre I know which can create seriously disturbing horror soft porn - going into some places that I doubt I want to see live action actors do. For one thing, I wasn't sure which I was more disturbed by, the deep detail of the violence and gore on screen or the fact that someone could draw such deep detail of violence and gore from his or her imagination. I find myself still trying to shake loose some of the really disconcerting images from my head a few weeks later. But the same kind of compulsion that makes people slow down to watch the scene of a messy car accident or examine the contents of a handkerchief after you've blown into it (and after you had a nosebleed while having a cold), makes me just want to watch it, if only because of the kind of monsters that populate this film like voices in a mental patient. The treatment of women in this film isn't exactly P-C: Kagero goes through more indignities that makes you think she's only there as a plot device to show how dastardly the villains really are. Still, she introduces a fascinating twist to the story: she is cursed or blessed with the ability to poison anyone she comes in sexual contact with. Sort of like a biological chastity belt. After all the vigorous rumpy-pumpy around them, she and Jubei can't really get it on, an oddly chivalric situation.

There is a kind of subplot here, between Kagero and Jubei, and one centring on Jubei himself. But somehow I found that to be secondary to the whole thing. This film demonstrates horror, not of the gross-outness variety (though plenty of that), nor the chills-down-your-hunched-spine type, but more of the oh-my-gawd-did-I-just-see-what-I-just-saw variety. It is shocking, disturbing and is perfect for those who get nightmares and wet beds. Enjoy.

Eden Law

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