1991-2000FantasyHorrorJapanMasaru Tsushima

Masaru Tsushima – Otsuyu: Kaidan botan aka the haunted lantern (1998)

The traditional nature of this kaidan, or Japanese ghost story, is underscored by the fact that it is based on a tale by Encho Sanyutei (1839-1900) — an author and performer of the late Edo-early Meiji period. His popular story “Botan Doro” has been the subject of some 18 film adaptations, this one being the first of the “modern” period. Sanyutei’s story was itself an adaptation of a traditional Chinese folktale that has a long history of re-telling and performance, especially in the form of kabuki theatre. It entered Japanese culture in the 1600s and became one of that country’s most loved kaidan, fusing romance, sexual politics and terror into an emotionally potent drama.

This 1998 film has an inevitably old-fashioned air about it, particularly in comparison to other contemporary Japanese ghost stories, such as Ringu and Ju-On: the Grudge. Yet there is also a modern sensibility that comes through the approach taken by director Tsushima — which is bloody and forthright, utilising an array of digital SFX to manifest its horrors. Nevertheless, it is the traditional elements that give the film its main appeal, especially as the SFX are patchy in effect and often quaint rather than frightening.

Still, there is an undeniable power to The Haunted Lantern’s tale of passion, betrayal and guilt. As is often the case in such traditional stories, it is not always easy for the audience to locate where its sympathies should lie, as main protagonist Shin Hagiwara (Gitan Otsuru) suffers the supernatural depredations inflicted upon him as a result of karma he has created for himself in a previous life. The female ghosts that haunt him (Yuna Natsua and Junna Suzuki) are demonic and romantic figures, traumatised by betrayal, yet themselves haunted by their own tragic passions.

It is the role of exorcist Hakuodo (Akaji Maro) — with his blank white eyes and text-based mode of supernatural attack — that gives the film’s climax an ambiance suggestive of the colourful SFX weirdness so familiar from Hong Kong supernatural action thrillers.

1.92GB | 1h 36m | 700×342 | mkv




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