9 June 2018



'Required viewing for aficionados of the prolific Kiyoshi Kurosawa.'
Derek Elley, VARIETY.

'Kurosawa's first true masterpiece.'
Michael Gullien, TWITCH.

'When oddball auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa received an offer to make two films in two weeks, on a low budget and using the same cast, the result was the cinematic equivalent of fraternal twins. Though both EYES OF THE SPIDER and SERPENT'S PATH are gangster films about the desire for revenge, and both films feature a protagonist named Nijima played convincingly by Sho Aikawa, the two films are completely different in tone and plot.'

These two films are so good that it's hard to believe that they were each made in a week and on a shoestring budget, as per the little explanation above. And yet, on the other hand, they show you exactly what can be achieved on a low budget, and that you don't necessarily need Hollywood-level dosh to make memorable films that people will love.

In SERPENT'S PATH, the fantastic- and cute!- Sho Aikawa plays a night-school teacher of such hard-looking sums that I'm guessing it's some kind of astronaut-level Quantum Physics. Only guessing now, mind. I didn't exactly set the world aflame with my schoolgirl Maths, lol.

That's what Naomi Nijimi does by night. By day, he's 'helping' a 'friend' with an altogether more personal project. Miyashita is a former low-level yakuza who has, with Nijima's assistance, tracked down the man he believes is his eight-year-old daughter's rapist-killer.

The two men keep the criminal chained to a wall in a deserted warehouse, refusing to allow him toilet privileges and throwing his food on the wet, dirty floor in front of him. He is psychologically tortured with video footage of the little girl in former, happier times playing on a continuous loop in front of him, while Miyashita reads in a monotone voice from the child's horrific autopsy report. Over and over and over again...

There's a big fat fly in the revenge ointment, however. The lowlife scumbag keeps claiming that he's innocent (well, they all do, don't they?) but, not only that, he knows who the real rapist-killer of the child is. This time it's a rich yakuza boss with a crippled wife who's no slouch with her cane-sword. Nijimi and Miyashita go and pick up this yakuza boss and subject him to the MAN IN THE IRON MASK treatment.

Guess what, though? This bigshot in the pristine golf outfit swears blind that it's not him either, but he knows who it is. Are Nijima and Miyashita going to continue patiently playing this soul-destroying game of 'It wasn't me but I know who it is,' and how long before Nijima rumbles the most despicable child-killer of them all...?

EYES OF THE SPIDER is even better. Sho Aikawa plays a man called Nijima again, a white-collar worker who this time has just killed and buried the murderer of his own little daughter Mitsuko. Now he can't settle back into his old job so, when an old school friend asks him to join his 'international company,' Nijima shrugs his shoulders and says yes. Why the hell not? What's he got to lose?

The 'international company' is a front- of course!- for a small group of inefficient killers-for-hire. Nijima is, frankly, the best thing to happen to the group in a long time. He's got brains, for one thing, unlike his new co-workers, a couple of whom are no more than kids. He comes to the attention of a high-up crime boss who likes him and gives him an important hit to do.

But there's something truly rank and rotten in the state of Denmark, so to speak. There's treachery amongst the little band of murderous blood brothers. Can Nijima figure out who- or what- it is before the assassin-for-hire becomes the assassinated?

And in the meantime, he has troubles at home to deal with as well. His neglected wife is seeing the ghost of their murdered child in the little girl's former bedroom. Maybe Nijima should spend some time with her, take her away for a bit, maybe? Well, maybe he could, if he hadn't already started a seedy sexual relationship with Miki, the gang's one female member...

What Nijima does to Miki at the end is so horrible that it makes us doubt him as a good guy, albeit a good guy who kills people for money. I won't reveal the details here but his actions seem unnecessarily cruel and over-the-top to the viewer. But hey, she knew what she was getting into, didn't she, dating a married man with a penchant for brutality and violence...?

Otherwise, Nijima is super-cool and awesome in everything he does. An impassive-faced man of almost no words at all, he lets his gun do the talking. What women wouldn't fall head-over-heels in love with a man like that...? And how much endless trouble would he give her? I'm just saying. Falling in love with a bad boy is very, very bad for one's emotional health. How do I know this? Oh, just years of practice and painful experience, that's all, lol.

Despite what I've told you guys about the grimmer aspects of the film, there's a good deal of deadpan black humour in EYES OF THE SPIDER, as opposed to SERPENT'S PATH which contains almost none. 

The assassins hanging about the office roller-skating and playing frisbee between hits is like the guys in THE SOPRANOS lolling around the Bada Bing or the pork store before it's time to go and collect those all-important blackmail-slash-protection monies. It's very funny, in other words...!

The scenes in the open countryside with the lads going fishing or with Nijima chasing the crazy old rock-collector around the lake are hilarious. Ditto the scene where the guy is following Nijima in a car trying to persuade Nijima to come on board as a hitman and Nijima loses his temper and chases after the car, only for the car to return and glide by again a few seconds later.

Again I say that these two gangster films are so good, they make you realise that you don't need a blockbuster budget to make a really cracking movie. Personally speaking, I'm never letting this two-film THIRD WINDOW FILMS box-set out of my sight. Given that it was lent to me in good faith by a friend, I foresee some problems with that down the line...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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