I'm being generous here because Hell is cool as hell. There's a sloppy datedness to the melodramatic front-end that undercuts any eerie, fable-style vibes Nakagawa may have been shooting for; it plays stilted. I felt like I was watching some kind of scared-straight video. At least half my rating is for the surreal, nightmarish hell sequences at the end. Takeaway: everyone is trying to kill you & everything's a sin.
A horror film riddled with dull melodrama and an insurmountable amount of characters and subplots, rendering it uncompelling, and often even unintentionally humorous. Even its literal descent into hell is bland, with uninteresting characters, and a silly undercurrent. Like many early Japanese films, it does have eye-popping photography, but this may be Criterion's worse horror release. Perhaps the remakes are better?
'Jigoku'; a portrait of hell- one man's rendering, anyway. Nakagawa paved his road to hell with crisp color, crimson reds and emerald greens, deep blacks and pale whites. The characters of the film seem to be (ironically) illuminated by an angelic light, at times literally blinding to viewers, scenes transitioning without warning from pitch-black darkness to bright white light. This being said,...↓
For some reason, I can't disassociate this film from an unrelated nightmare I had months after seeing it where I had a terrible death/vomit/rotten tuna-fish taste in my mouth... I can't even look at screenshots without imagining the taste! What the heck?
it's kinda disturbing when you're watching this and you imagine yourself suffering in the bottomless hell and stuff. truly is. the scene where Shiro meets Yukiko in the Sanzu River is utterly heartbreaking and beautiful. my doubts about this film turned to awe in the final third.
The problem with Jigoku lies with its lack of narrative thrust. Japanese cinema of this era was divided so artistically and culturally that many films were hit and miss-there was not much of a middle ground. While the last third of Jigoku is visually stunning, and I love the depiction of the Buddhist hell, it was not very frightening because I did not care about the characters, nor was I given any reason to do so.