Village of Eight Gravestones (1977)

aka Yatsuhaka-mura
Article 3288 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2010
Posting Date: 8-15-2010
Directed by Yoshitaro Nomura
Featuring Kenichi Hagiwara, Mayumi Ogawa, Tsutomu Yamazakie
Country: Japan
What it is: Supernatural revenge mystery

When an orphan discovers he is the heir to a rich family in a small village, he goes to the village to meet the family. But family members start dying one by one, and he discovers that the village lives under a curse; years ago, eight fugitive warriors were betrayed and slaughtered by the villagers for money, and one of the warriors cursed the village previous to his death. The curse has manifested itself several times over the years… and may be returning again.

Due to events I won’t go into here, I was unable to watch this movie in one sitting, and there was a gap of about a month between my watching the first half of the movie and the second half. Perhaps this was a plus for me; had I watched it all at once, its two-and-a-half-hour running time might well have worn me out, and I notice on IMDB that some of the negative reaction to it is tied to its length. As it is, I found that when I watched the second part, I was still able to recall enough of the first part to keep me from getting lost, and it was still strong enough in my memory that I was able to appreciate the way one of the final scenes in the movie matched one of the first scenes in the movie. I found it a successful merging of mystery and supernatural horror, which doesn’t happen very often; usually, the addition of a mystery element has the effect of negating the fantastic elements of a movie, but that’s not the case here. The fantastic elements revolve around the curse, while the mystery surrounds the manifestation of the curse; there must be a human element in the cause of the deaths, and though the villagers blame the newcomer, we soon learn that there is a real question about his true parentage. It’s a complex, fascinating movie that manages to satisfy as both genres; I was quite impressed by it all. Still, that length may well prove daunting for a single sitting, so I’d recommend taking a break after the first hour or so.

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