Jigoku is a bizarrely sinister film, one that has become an instant classic in the horror genre. It’s known around the world as the first film that used gore to such a significant degree. In all of its bloodshed glory, Jigoku is also a frightening cautionary tale, which – through its brutally vivid imagery – introduces the important religious matters, such as the afterlife and what it really means to repay one’s sins in hell.
Two students – the first (Tamura) is the incarnation of pure evil; the second (Shiro) is a friendly guy, who just can’t get rid of his devil friend – run over a drunkard somewhere during the night. They flee the scene in a screwy fashion, leaving the man for dead. Unfortunately for them, it so happens that the dead man was a yakuza, and his mom was very close when the incident occurred, and she was able to remember the car’s license plate numbers. Shiro tries to lead a peaceful life with his loving girlfriend, but is ultimately unable to due to a strange and horrible turn of events. First of all, only a day after the accident his girl is killed as the taxi they both were in crashes into a lamppost. Secondly, the old lady bound for revenge – along with the dead yakuza’s grieving girlfriend Kiyochi – track the two students down.
Shiro receives a letter, which informs him about his mother’s poor state, and so he decides to travel to the retirement house in order to spend some time with her. Tamura is following his every move like a ghost, like a devil who doesn’t let go and curses you with his presence. His evil aura drags everyone around into a state of deep existential angst. When in the retirement community, Shiro falls in love with a girl who is strangely similar to his late girlfriend. After the death of his mother and a huge wrangle caused by the discovery of a few unexpected love affairs (Shiro’s father for one), the revengeful old lady and her accomplice arrive at the scene. From this point on, things get odder with every following minute. Kiyochi falls of a bridge after she attempts to kill Shiro. A few moments later, Tamura is shot dead in the exact same place, and lands lifelessly few hundred meters below. The final sequence of the first act takes places during one of the evening feasts. The dinner turns into a disquieting bloodbath so to say, when all of the guest and strangers die one after another, some of them poisoned, other strangled.
Now it’s time for act two, the one where all things gory start to happen. All of the sinners the audience has seen before are now in hell. And it looks exactly how people picture it. It’s a dark and horrifying place, full of burning fire, with huge bowls where people are being boiled, and with angels of death all around announcing punishments and tortures. Shiro is trying to reunite with his love and their unborn baby, and – in the meantime – every other character gets his or her comeuppance. In the most grizzly and violent manner people are sliced, mutilated, and so on. Finally they realize how harsh a punishment for a sin can really be.
Watching Jigoku proves to be a disturbing experience to say the least, but its religious values are irrefutable. Blood and gore serves its purpose when all those sick-and-twisted people, whose sins were previously exposed, are united in pain and anguish, unable to change their lamentable fate. Even though Jigoku might seem too bizarre and ludicrous for some viewers, it’s a highly recommended view for all the horror fans and Japan lovers alike.