Jigoku (The Sinners of Hell) (1960)
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Critic Reviews for Jigoku (The Sinners of Hell)
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Audience Reviews for Jigoku (The Sinners of Hell)
while being an incredibly flawed film in many ways, jigoku is also utterly profound in its message and entirely effective in its execution. a film about a "good" man who through a series of poor choices finds himself in hell, this film builds well in its first two acts until a final act that enthralls completely. while ones world view may get in the way of their ability to be effected by the portraits of hell in the film, one cant escape the empty feeling that the film provides of a godless existence. a great and creative horror film the likes of which is rarely seen in this genre anymore.
Jigoku is supposed to be the first picture that used gore as a serious special effect, making it the grandfather of movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser and such. Of course, you can't watch the end of the movie without the beginning, so you really have to make the choice of suffering through the first half of tedious exposition so you can enjoy the last half before giving up on it, entirely. I can't tell you not to see Jigoku, just that it's no longer the terrifying journey it apparently was back in the sixties. The first hour is long enough that I feel confident saying I don't really think I'll ever feel compelled to sit through it again. Western cinema such as Hellraiser owes a great debt to the stylization of the torture sequences, but they are tame in comparison to Clive Barker's far more sexual and visual depiction's two decades later. It is more interesting from cultural and religious perspectives than from a horror angle, but not very.
If Mario Bava was Japanese instead of Italian this is what you just might have ended up with--astonishing visuals (namely the last third) and great shoestring special effects. Oh, and some great gore. Unfortunately you'd also end up with a godawful story (or poor cultural translation) that just may be the very definition of weak. Aside from the gorgeous freakshow at the end my faith in the folks at Criterion is indeed shaken.
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