Umezu Kazuo: Kyôfu gekijô- Madara no shôjo
Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theater: The Harlequin Girl
“Based on the manga by Kazuo Umezu. Traumatized after witnessing a violent murder, depressed teenager Yumiko finds herself re-appreciating life after being sent to stay with her cousins in their remote mountain village. However after she gets bitten by an evil snake demon, Yumiko finds that the superstitious villagers are less than understanding…”
- Arisa Nakamura – Yumiko
- Riko Narumi – Kyoko
- Riko Suzuki – Mariko Yamakawa
- Shôko Nakahara – Snake Woman
- Kyûsaku Shimada – Kyoko’s Father
- Minako Tanaka – Kyoko’s Mother
- The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch – Kazuo Umezu
- Zombie Snake – Chiaki Konaka
- First context: Snake Girl is the third chapter of a six part anthology titled Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theatre. Each chapter is an adaptation of one of Umezu’s famous horror manga stories, independent and unrelated to one another.
Second context: I haven’t read the source material for Snake Girl nor have I read anything else by Kazuo Umezu. In fact, I don’t read manga at all.
Snake Girl is an entertaining way to spend 54 minutes but it feels like a lot of build up to a very unsatisfying climax.
Despite the sometimes cheap looking production, director Noboru Iguchi does a fantastic job of creating a very nightmarish atmosphere and making several tense scenes genuinely chilling. From what I could tell, not understanding Japanese and all, the acting is mostly fine. I found the two lead actresses to be engaging despite their young age and both seemed emotive when necessary. There’s some slightly awkward physical staging but it’s never enough to be distracting.
The practical SFX look really cool and honestly quite creepy, I just wish that the big transformation sequence could have been conducted in a less painfully contrived manner. The actress peaks out from behind a doorframe looking a little bit ‘snakey’ then hides again then peaks out looking a little more ‘snakey’. She does this 3 or 4 times. I have yet to see a circumstance in any movie ever that would necessitate a character to behave like that.
However, even the cool practical SFX are not enough to save the incredibly disappointing and saccharine finale. It is hard to describe without spoiling the central twist of the story but Yumiko’s adventure is resolved with a character moment which is confusingly unrelated to the actual Snake curse. Also I am still not 100% clear on why the zombie villagers were awkwardly included in the middle and then discarded before the end so I’m going to blame those on an accuracy to the source manga.
Horror Theatre: Snake Girl manages to accomplish a surprising amount of atmosphere and successfully swings for the creepy and chilling side of horror more than the gory or shocking. It may not end on a high note but the build-up is entertaining enough with some very memorable moments.