SALEM HORROR FEST: Bakeneko: A Vengeful Spirit (1968)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was watched as part of Salem Horror Fest. You can still get a weekend pass for weekend two. Single tickets are also available. Here’s the program of what’s playing.

Held in conjunction with the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies’ presentation of Alexandra West’s multimedia lecture The Cat Came Back: Feline Familiars in the Horror Genre, the new 2K restoration of Bakeneko: A Vengeful Spirit screened this weekend at Salem Horror Fest.

Also known as Ghost Cat of the Cursed Pond, this explains what happens when Nabeshima Naoshige murders Ryuzoji Takafusa in an attempt to get his land, his power and his wife Lady Takafusa, who would rather drown herself and her cat familiar in a swamp than suffer underneath this man. Also: Takafusa is killed by being sealed up in clay.

Years later, Naoshige has learned nothing and tries to assault another woman, Yukiji (Kyoko Mikage), then claims that he will behead her entire family if she doesn’t leave her fiancee Yuki Jonosuke (Kotaro Satomi) for him. The young lovers are faced with a horrible choice before they find Lady Takafusa’s cat mud-caked cat on the shore. It has not forgotten the past and is thirsty for blood and ready to take revenge for the lives stolen by the rich and powerful. You get what you ask for when you anger the spirits of the swamp during the festival meant to appease them. As Yukiji and Yuki die in the swamp, the cat drinks deep of their plasma and sets into motion its horrific reprisal.

Soon, one of the many wives of Naoshige, Lady Hyuga (Machiko Yashiro) has clawed hands — yes, like a cat — and is feasting on the many severed arms of her victims.

Director and writer Yoshihiro Ishikawa covers this film in inky darkness and by the end, unleashes severed arms crawling for the dead, beheadings, psychotic freakouts and the entire family of Noashige paying for his behavior. Ishikawa also directed The Ghost Cat of Otama Pond and wrote Mansion of the Ghost Cat if you need more Kaibyo — ghost cat — films. There’s also KuronekoBlind Woman’s Curse and Hausu.

This one has a truly hateable villain, doomed heroines and that ghost cat whose eyes cast a shadow across everything in this film. A magical exploration of myth and cinema; one that I can’t wait to watch again when Severin releases it this year.

2 thoughts on “SALEM HORROR FEST: Bakeneko: A Vengeful Spirit (1968)

  1. The supernatural cats known as Kaibyo are supernatural entities (called yōkai) and much like how cats are seen as worshipful creatures (as in Egypt), in Japan, they are seen as otherworldly because cats have some wild abilities: the irises of their eyes can change shape depending on the time of day, they can walk in total silence, they have sharp fangs and claws, they are awake all night, they lick blood at times, the way they carry themselves.
    The bakeneko can transform into humans and possess them, while nekomata are housecats that in their old age, rather than die, become yokai. The most well-known in the west cat yokai are maneki-neko or the waving lucky cat.
    Kaibyo means strange cat!


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