Kaidan (Kwaidan) (Ghost Stories)

Critics Consensus

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.



Total Count: 24


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,660
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Movie Info

Kwaidan is an impressively mounted anthology horror film based on four stories by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-born writer who began his career in the United States at the age of 19 and moved permanently to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40, where he eventually became a subject of the empire and took on the name Koizumi Yakuno. Hearn became a conduit of Japanese culture to western audiences, publishing journalism and then fiction incorporating traditional Japanese themes and characters. "Black Hair," the first tale, concerns a samurai who cannot support his wife; he leaves her for a life of wealth and ease with a princess. Returning years later, he spends the night with his wife in their now-dilapidated house, only to awake to a horrifying discovery which drives him insane. In "The Woman of the Snow" (deleted from U.S. theatrical prints after the film's Los Angeles opening; it is on the DVD version), two woodcutters seek refuge during a snowstorm in what appears to be an abandoned hut. A snow witch appears and kills one of them but lets his partner free. Years later, the survivor meets and married a lovely young woman, only to learn her true identity. The most visually impressive tale is "Hoichi the Earless," in which a blind musician is asked by the ghost of a samurai to play for his late infant lord at a tomb. The monks who house the musician cover him with tattoos to prevent any harm coming to him, but they forget his ears. He returns from the engagement with his ears cut off; however, his misadventure propels him to fame. "In a Cup of Tea" concerns a samurai who is haunted by the vision of a man he sees reflected in his tea. Even after he drinks from the cup, he still sees the man while on guard duty. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi


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Critic Reviews for Kaidan (Kwaidan) (Ghost Stories)

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for Kaidan (Kwaidan) (Ghost Stories)

  • 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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