Curse of the God Dog Review (1977)

Curse of the God Dog Review (1977)

English Title Curse of the God Dog
Japanese Title Inugami no tatari
Kana Title 犬神の悪霊
Director Shunya Ito
Release Date 1977
Distributor Toei

Curse of the God Dog may be one of the hardest films that I’ll ever have to review. With no adherence to genre tropes, narrative structure, or even traditional editing the film ends up as a nearly 2 hour dose of confusion… but is that confusion actually a good thing?

Employees of a big city mining company descend on a backwoods village in search of a source of valuable uranium. Whilst there the three workers accidentally destroy a small shrine dedicated to the legendary dog god. A sin made worse when they later run over a dog belonging to a mysterious boy. When one of the company men marries the daughter of an esteemed member of the community the dog god begins to unleash its full powers, killing people off in mysterious ways and possessing everyone that the man cares for most.

The film is directed by the incredibly talented Shunya Ito, who many will know for the first three films in the Female Prisoner Scorpion series, and not much else. To my knowledge, this and Lupin the Third: Farewell to Nostradamus, are the only non Sasori films that are available to an English audience. So needless to say, Curse of the Dog Dog was a film that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I’ve been saving it for a rainy day, knowing that once I’d seen this, it’ll be the last film from Shunya Ito I’ll probably ever see.

Ito is a guy that has one foot in exploitation and another in outright avant-garde film making, with a seemingly disregard for both. He’s a little bit like Cronenberg in that sense. He’s the guy whose films you put on to silence that friend who won’t watch anything except art cinema or films from movements recognised by the academy. Female Prisoner is an unabashedly trashy women in prison film that never removes elements to legitimize it. It’s shot like an art film and has more creativity in one minute than many films have in their entire run time, yet it exists purely to entertain the audience.

Does the same apply to Curse of the God Dog? I’m honestly not too sure. Everything that I love about his other films is there, but none of it really fits in the way that it should. The sudden narrative shifts that would get me excited in Sasori here leave me feeling pretty confused, as if the film is constantly restarting every 20 minutes. The plot leads me to believe that this is partially intentional. Given that most of the characters in the film are the Japanese equivalent of country bumpkins who neither fully understand the curse that is laid on them, nor the intentions of the mining company that has set upon their town, we too are left in the dark, with no rulebook to draw from.

This is both a blessing and a curse (har har). On the one hand, I never once knew where this film was going. Every time a plot strand was set up, it would instantly be written out of the film in the next scene never to be mentioned again. For a brief moment the film becomes a possession movie, but Ito is only interested in this for 20 minutes before it’s tossed to the wind. The film is a constant surprise and possibly one the most original and unique horror films that I’ve ever seen, but this also has its draw backs. I’m all for surprise, but when the rug is pulled out from you every 20 minutes due to the film disregarding most of went before it’s quite hard to stay engaged.

There’s also no canon for the proceedings. The curse in the film isn’t like those traditionally found in Japanese horror films, which typically focus on onryo. Instead the film focuses on the tropes of an inugami curse. You have clans of violent dogs, forced suicides, possession, madness, mass hysteria, possessed machinery, and many more. Again, this makes the sheer oddness of the film incredibly appealing, but also kept me at a distance of nothing is ever built up to. Strangeness just randomly appears. Again, this is mostly intentional as the characters in the film don’t seem to really know what the curse consists of either, but it sure does make it a hard film to follow.

So do I hate the film? Far from it. Stylistically it’s a definite recommendation, and whilst the strangeness holds the film back somewhat, it’s also a reason to hunt Curse of the God Dog down and give it a watch. Ito fans will be somewhat disappointed due to knowing what the director is really capable of when he puts his mind to it, but there’s still enough here to like.

Curse of the God Dog has unfortunately never had a release in the West.
Shunya Ito’s Female Prisoner Scorpion series however is available on Blu Ray on amazon.

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Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 40 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Editor review

Rating
3/5

3

Average
3
Summary

Stylistically, Curse of the God Dog is a definite recommendation, and whilst the strangeness holds the film back somewhat, it's also a reason to hunt it down and give it a watch. Ito fans will be somewhat disappointed due to knowing what the director is really capable of when he puts his mind to it, but there's still enough here to like.