According to that bastion of all questionably accurate information, Wikipedia, an Inugami is the angry, disembodied spirit of a dog which attaches itself to human master and, for the most part, acts on the master’s wishes. Folklore suggests that some rather despicable cruelty, resulting in the death of the chosen dog, will allow the dog’s spirit to transform into an Inugami. Like the folklore of any culture, there are deviations and various interpretations of these myths. For the most part though, the movie INUGAMI retains many of the mythic elements outlined by the wiki post. However it broadens the scope of the myth to suggest that an entire family line (specifically the females) is cursed with the responsibility of placating the Inugami — which can number into the thirties — and keep them from unleashing their wrath on the family’s village.
As it begins, Inugami appears to be a fairly run of the mill Japanese horror movie: New high school teacher Akira Nutahara (Atsuro Watabe) arrives in the village to begin his new job, but almost as soon as he arrives strange things start happening. Akira encounters, and becomes fascinated with, the hauntingly serene Miki Bonomiya (Yuki Amami), a lonely “spinster” whose days are spent manufacturing incredibly high quality rice paper.
Like many of these kinds of movies, it’s unfair to categorise this as horror (or even Jhorror – *gag*) but “Japanese mythicial based drama-fantasy” is too much of a mouthful. It would also be unfair to write this movie off as “Just another Japanese mythical based drama-fantacy”, as there are a few things that really set it apart from genre.
To being with Inugami doesn’t just cross some taboo lines, it runs up to the line and kicks it in the nether region and throws salt in its eye, before making out with its girlfriend and letting its dog loose on the freeway. But I can’t really tell you what those taboos are without spoiling some of the plot twists and revels that actually make Inugami fairly compelling… albeit a little repulsive at the same time.
Additionally, Masato Harada’s direction is stunning and immersive. Sequences shot in (and flying above) the cedar forests which surround the village are gorgeous. As is Harada’s use of light throughout the film. This movie is laced with erotic and adult content, and as I mentioned before, plenty of taboos, but it’s all presented in such a mature and artistic way that you end up lost in the characters. You become aware of these undertones only at a point where the film climaxes and you realise that you were the only one unaware that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.
My one complaint about this film is that it’s perhaps a little too light on when it comes to some of the peripheral characters. Many of them aren’t really introduced until later in the film, but they serve important roles and really deserve to be explored further earlier on in the plot. To be honest though, while watching the movie I was far too captivated by Yuki Amami’s performance to really care too much about anyone else. [buy]