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Hebi Musume to Hakuhatsuma

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch

Japan 1968
produced by
Kazumasa Nakano, Masaichi Nagata (executive) for Daiei
directed by Noriaki Yuasa
starring Yachie Matsui, Mayumi Takahashi, Sachiko Meguro, Yuko Hamada, Sei Hiraizumi, Yoshiuro Kitahara, Saburo Ishiguro, Kuniko Miyake, Tadashi Date, Mariko Fukuhara, Osamu Maruyama, Tomomi Takahashi, Kazuke Umezu
story by Kazuo Kozu, screenplay by Kimiyuki Hasegawa, based on the manga by Kazuo Umezu, music by Shunsuke Kikuchi

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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Young Sayuri (Yashie Matsui) has spent her early years in an orphanage before she's picked up by father (Yoshiro Kitahara), who has only recently managed to track her down - and naturally, Sayuri couldn't be happier. But after one happy evening with her new, real family, father is called away for work, and she's left behind with her mother (Yuko Hamada), who nice as she is seems to be a little off at times, strict housekeeper Shige (Sachiko Meguro), and tons of poisonous snakes dad keeps in his lab for professional reasons - snakes that give Sayuri nightmares. And Sayuri can also not shake the feeling that someone's in the house with them - and eventually, mum admits it's true, as her sister Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi), whose face is disfigured and whose back is covered in snake scales. At first, Sayuri's happy to have a sister who's roughly her age, and is more than happy to share her room and bed with her, but it soon becomes clear that Tamami doesn't like her one bit, and has some sort of contrtol over mum - so much so that Tamami eventually has Sayuri banned to the attic where she's locked in. Now that's bad, but worse is that up there, Sayuri is haunted by a white-haired witch, who might just be a character in her nightmares but also might be real, so much so that Sayuri eventually escapes through an attic window and makes it back to her orphanage, where the director of the orphanage (Osamu Maruyama) tells her that Tamami isn't even the real offspring of her parents but the babies were exchanged after birth and that Tamami has had mental problems because of her disfigurement, and Sayuri's mum has been in a confused state of mind ever since. The director promises to take care of everything, but before she can she's brutally murdered, and now it's up to Sayuri and her best friend from orphanage Tatsuya (Sei Hiraizumi) to set things right again - but with a girl who might be a snake, and a silver-haired witch, do they even know what they're facing?

 

A welcomely weird mix of kiddie shocker, violent thriller, and fantasy, with some surreal elements thrown in - and the outcome is actually pretty charming, with fun monsters, a good dose of jump scares, all bedded in a properly haunting atmospheric directorial effort. Now sure, the film isn't cliché-free, and some of the twists and turns might be more on the predictable side than intended, but that said, it's a really entertaining piece of exotic horror. No classic in the traditional sense of the word maybe, but fun for sure.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD