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Kourei - Seance (Kurosawa Kiyoshi 1999)



Genre: Supernatural Psychological Suspense

review in one breath

Kourei ("Seance" in English) is directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, also responsible for the likes of Cure (1997), "Hebi no Michi" (Serpent's Path, 1997), Charisma (1999), and Kairo (2001) among others. Kurosawa is increasingly recognized as a premier director able to deliver significant impact. His films are characterized by his willingness and patience to allow audiences to arrive at an understanding without being spoon-fed or merely told. In other words, this Kurosawa enjoys watching your mind interact with his film, and his relish of this interaction causes him to refrain from spelling out every detail and nuance he wishes you to catch.

First off, I have to say that the video/DVD cover graphic contributed to a considerable postponement of my watching this movie. I do not enjoy "gore" films, which is precisely what the cover made me think of, with its clear emphasis on a large blood splatter and the crumpled body of a female. Therefore I must tell you, there is absolutely no blood (or gore) in this film, nor is there a crumpled body (!!!). The cover graphic was (fortunately) a complete misrepresentation of the content and intelligence of this film.

Kurosawa's Kourei is loosely based on the 1964 British novel Seance on a Wet Afternoon wherein a manipulative woman wishing to advance her career as a medium forces her weak-willed husband to abduct a child, the "intuited" rescue of which will lead to the wife's fame and fortune. The version presented in Kourei is in most ways radically different from the original novel, not least of which is Junko's real ability to see the dead, a fact which immediately transforms the tale (under the skillful hand of Kurosawa) from mere suspense to one of potential horror.

The story's main characters are Sato (Koji Yakusho), a mild mannered sound engineer, and his wife Junko, a (truly) gifted medium. When Junko is called upon by local police to help locate a young kidnap victim, all seems well for her future career as a validated medium. When, however, Sato and Junko discover, amazingly enough, that the child locked herself in Sato's sound equipment case (while escaping the real kidnapper) and apparently suffocated in their garage, the possibility that the police will accuse her of orchestrating the entire event complicates matters significantly.

There are indeed ghosts here, creepy ghosts. But it is also clear that the main antagonists are human, facing their own demons of greed and self delusion.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It is more "thinker" than "shocker" which means you can share this with a wider audience of friends (if you can get them past the cover graphic). It also has some bizarre twists and a few scary moments. There is a very nice twist at the end, orchestrated by Kurosawa, which will leave viewers quite satisfied and contemplative.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
The real cultural relevance here is director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. One creepy little ghoul beat about the head with a large wooden stick. One ghostly clone set ablaze while enjoying a garden view from his recliner. Nope. Some very creepy ghoulies here.


I agree, kurosawa´s films are the "thinker" kind. In this case, the couple, though they are nice people, find themselves lost in their "simple" plan. There´s a scene that really gave me the creeps, that involved the wife and behind her an entrance changing its color from white to dark as if the heart of darkness were indeed inhabitating in their own house.

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