‘Jigoku’ translates to ‘Hell’ in Japanese tongue. And while this film is 60 years old, it has some of the most transgressive, arguably explicit images of Hell that you’re apt to see.
When two friends do a hit-and-run, their consciences are ridden with guilt until they meet their own demises. And from then on, we follow them as they plunge into their own personal Hells.
It’s such a simple idea but it’s brilliantly pulled off. The first 2/3 of the film have us following the main character as he watches everyone he loves die in strange ways as repentance for his sins. We get some beautiful set design and color play as we traverse this sad landscape. And then once all is lost, he pays the price with his own life.. and the last 1/3 of the film is pure nightmare fuel, fever dreams, and sinister violence.
We see demons torturing the characters, we see his wife being raped, we see him getting severed into a hundred pieces only to be reassembled and re-severed over and over again. There’s shots of lakes of fire, there’s images of zombies and demonic souls walking aimlessly, hallways full of reaching arms, and so much more.
On top of that, it has a hint of cheese that is easy to swallow – but what would you expect for a Japanese horror film from the ’60s? This film was one of the first 400 added to the Criterion Collection, and it makes complete sense why.
There’s never been a more fun and visceral ride into Hell quite like this one, and it seems to have paved the way visually for many who’ve come afterwards.
“Jigoku” is currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.
‘Til Next Time,
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