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Exquisitely designed and fastidiously ornate, Masaki Kobayashi's ambitious anthology operates less as a frightening example of horror and more as a meditative tribute to Japanese folklore. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Taking its title from an archaic Japanese word meaning "ghost story," this anthology adapts four folk tales. A penniless samurai (Rentarô Mikuni) marries for money with tragic results. A man stranded in a blizzard is saved by Yuki the Snow Maiden (Keiko Kishi), but his rescue comes at a cost. Blind musician Hoichi (Katsuo Nakamura) is forced to perform for an audience of ghosts. An author (Osamu Takizawa) relates the story of a samurai who sees another warrior's reflection in his teacup.

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Critic Reviews for Kwaidan

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (26) | Rotten (3)

  • shot mostly on sound stages in constructed sets with highly mannered backdrops, this is a film of a rare, hermetic beauty, full of ethereal images and errant ideas that will haunt the mind.

    April 27, 2020 | Full Review…
  • The use of electronic and natural sound in a non-naturalistic way is hauntingly and chillingly effective.

    March 18, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Film is visually and physically stunning but its three tales of the supernatural are more intellectual than visceral.

    March 26, 2009 | Full Review…
  • The first episode builds an effective mood through its elliptical action and long, slow tracks through empty rooms, but this 1965 film soon levels off into academic stylization.

    September 19, 2007 | Full Review…
  • It is a compendium of four ghost stories adapted from Lafcadio Hearn, so determinedly aesthetic in their design and style that horror frissons hardly get a look in. Very beautiful, though.

    June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
  • It can still hold its own against the new generation of horror films still sourcing it. Well worth a look.

    May 31, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Kwaidan

  • Jun 27, 2011
    As the title suggests, Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" is a collection of ghost stories: "The Black Hair" (approximately 35 minutes), "The Woman of the Snow" (41 minutes), "Hoichi the Earless" (71 minutes) and "In a Cup of Tea" (25 minutes). The film is more than the sum of its parts, because the grand impact of a three-hour epic overshadows individual segments that are long on atmosphere but a bit thin on plot. Really, one could summarize any of the premises in a sentence. Man dumps loving wife for woman from more prestigious family, has second thoughts and returns to first wife with unexpected results. Man saved from snowstorm death by mysterious woman, draws her wrath after breaking promise not to tell others. Blind man recruited to sing traditional ballads for a ghost army, has trouble backing out. Man magically sees another man's face in his tea, makes the mistake of wronging him. Simple tales, told with beautiful cinematography and sets. The film is entirely shot inside a studio -- even battle scenes on a lake -- and Kobayashi has great fun concocting impossible, painterly skies. Most memorably, "Woman of the Snow" even adds giant, ominous eyes hanging in the background.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2011
    A collection of short horror films that are done with style and grace and make up for the small budgets associated with them. The first of the four short films is called Black Hair and is about a samurai who leaves his wife in order to marry and move up the social ladder and is driven mad in the end when he finally comes back home and discovers his wife is dead but her spirit still lingers at night. The second story is called The Woman of the Snow and is about a man who must keep his oath to a spirit in order to save his life. The film is happy and it isn't until he breaks his oath that everything crumbles apart. The third film is called Hoichi the Earless and the title says it all. The blind protagonist is summoned by spirits to play his instrument, in which he is highly skilled at, and comes under a curse until his friends try and save him. The final of the four films is called In a Cup of Tea and is about a spirit who is seen in this cup and what the consequences are for drinking the spirit. These are visually quite impressive, especially The Woman of the Snow and Hoichi the Earless and are very atmospheric and traditional Japanese Horror.
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 15, 2010
    Similar to <i>Ugetsu</i>. A chilling collection of Ghost Stories with haunting musical poignancy.
    Alexander C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 03, 2010
    Four supernatural Japanese folk tales: a samurai is haunted by regret when he leaves his poor wife for a rich one; a snow-spirit spares the life of a young man on one condition; ghosts demand a blind harpist perform for them; a man sees an apparition in a cup of water. Slow, beautiful, hypnotic, poetic; eye-popping sets and masterfully eerie music. A masterpiece.
    Greg S Super Reviewer

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