Hooptober 9.0 – The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968)

Being Film #22 for Hooptober 2022

It would be a huge mistake to look at the filmography of Noriaki Yuasa and dismiss The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch. Because yes, while his entire filmography as a director is almost exclusively limited to Gamera films I would argue that 1) the Gamera films are pretty cool, and 2) the awesome title of this film puts it in a category with a certain Italian subgenre that also has incredible titles. That’s right: think of this as a Japanese take on giallo – all the earmarks are there making this a clever, frightening and synoptic film that was honestly a blast to watch.

THE QUICK SUMMARY: When young orphan Sayuri learns her parents have come back to claim her she’s overjoyed: finally, a family! Her father informs her that her mother may act a little weird, owing to an accident a few months back that’s robbed her of much of her memory. That’s okay, because Sayuri is determined to make this work. That’s going to be hard though, what with the mysterious person living in the attic, and the murder by tossed snake of the maid from the just as mysterious person with a scaly hand. Who is the weird and nasty Tamami, and if she truly is Sayuri’s sister as claimed by her mother and the maid Mrs. Shige, why must she be kept a secret from the father? As Sayuri digs deeper into the mystery the Silver-Haired is there to stop her meddling…and she’ll go to any lengths to do it!

snake girl and silver haired witch poster

The above summary is more than a bit convoluted, but then again so are the best giallo films. Nothing is what it seems in the film, and Yuasa makes great use of some hallucinatory effects as Sayuri comes face to face with both the Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch. The line is blurred as to whether these interactions are real or just nightmares, but the viciousness of the attacks are very real, and the mystery of what is happening keeps you drawn in as Sayuri slowly learns what is actually happening.

Like the best giallo films, we get closeups of hands and weapons, sudden deaths, and a slam bang finish where all is revealed and things hinge on a tension filled climax where anything can happen. And while there’s little to no actual scares in The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch I was surprised at how visceral the ending is, and how effective the blood was in a 1968 horror film.

22 films into Hooptober and while there have certainly been better films, I don’t know that I’ve been as delightfully surprised as I have been with with this wicked little film. I thought I had my fill of giallo this month with The House with Laughing Windows, but I was delighted to be wrong.

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