“THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER HAIRED WITCH”
Director Noriaki Yuasa’s “The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch” is a monochrome film adaptation of the works of horror manga pioneer Kazuo Umezu. It is a fantastically phantasmagorical slice of twisted terror.
A young girl named Sayuri is reunited with her estranged family after years in an orphanage – but trouble lurks in the large family home. Her mother is an amnesiac after a car accident six months earlier, her sister is confined to the attic and a young housemaid dies of a heart attack just before Sayuri arrives. Is this all connected to her father’s work studying venomous snakes? Is the serpentine figure that haunts Sayuri’s dreams the same one spying on her through holes in the wall?
In the prologue, we see a maid go down into the basement of a big house where there are lots of snakes and scorpions in glass tanks. Someone hiding in the shadows takes out a snake and throws it at the maid. Its bite kills her instantly. Someone hears her scream, but the murderer is nowhere to be seen. It looks like an accident…
Sayuri returns to her family home but the nun who was looking after her seems to be unhappy about the reunion. Things get off to a bad start as Sayori arrives home, the dead maid is just being carted off to the morgue! Her new found family consists of Mum, Dad and the senior maid, Shige. Their house is large, almost a stone mansion. Inside the house, the mother seems a little odd, the father is never around, and someone is peeping at Sayori through a hole in her bedroom ceiling. Then, someone drops a live snake on her while she’s sleeping and a snake-faced girl appears in her bedroom.
Sayori soon discovers that there’s a second girl in the house, called Tamami, the rudest, nastiest little girl ever. It was Tamami who dropped the snake on Sayori and soon the girls share the bedroom, but Sayori thinks there’s something wrong with Tamami’s face. She has a strange waxy appearance. As she lies down to go to sleep, her hair falls away and there is something else. Eventually, Sayori is all but imprisoned in the loft that is haunted by a white-haired crone with a skeletal face and murder in mind.
The blurring of Sayori’s imagination is what makes the film interesting. Much of the horror is in her dreams, but she also sees the snake-girl when she’s wide awake. The movie is fast-paced and interesting, even sub-textually. The characters s keep us guessing and the dream sequences are full of effects.
Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) still plays with and sleeps with her doll, so she may have been intended to be even younger. She is absolutely alone. By herself, she must battle snakes that drop from the ceiling, spiders that crawl up her bed, a supposed sister who wants to suck her blood, strange nightmares, a murderous witch, a wicked housekeeper who tries to throw her off the scaffolding of a skyscraper construction site, and being locked alone in the attic. No one believes her except the delivery boy at the orphanage.
Things are further confused by Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi) who she has been hidden in the house so the father thinks she is dead. Tamami is the Snake Girl and has scales on her back, which she keeps covered mostly, and on occasion she has fangs that suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear. Her face itself has some kind of disfigurement that she keeps covered with a mask.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Brand new commentary by film historian David Kalat
This Charming Woman, a newly filmed interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson
Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Raffael Coronelli