top of page

Review: Demon Pond

[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]

At times, Masahiro Shinoda’s Demon Pond feels like two different films awkwardly stapled together.

The first is a hauntingly atmospheric arthouse horror movie about forgotten folklore, self-destructive superstitions, and the conflict between “traditional values” and “modern rationality.” The opening montage is particularly impactful, elevated by the immaculate sound design: the oppressive howl of the scorching, dusty wind; the mocking “crunch” of parched, cracked earth underfoot; and the resounding “thud” of a stone hitting the bottom of a bone-dry well elegantly convey the borderline post-apocalyptic desolation of the setting—a remote mountain village ravaged by poverty and drought.

The second is a fairly conventional Japanese ghost story reminiscent of Daiei’s 100 Monsters and Daimajin, with all of the tropes that one would expect from the genre: morally corrupt humans desecrating the natural order, wrathful gods and guardian spirits exacting terrible revenge, cataclysms of every conceivable variety (floods, typhoons, tsunamis), and hapless innocents caught in the crossfire. Shinoda’s unmistakable authorial voice, however, enriches this familiar narrative structure. The scenes depicting the Dragon Princess’ heavenly court, for example, deliberately embrace the inherent artificiality of live theater—much like the director’s earlier effort, Double Suicide (in that case, he was emulating bunraku puppetry; here, kabuki serves as the primary influence). The relatively simple yet dazzlingly colorful makeup and costuming of the monstrous retinue—lumbering ogres, grotesque Cyclopes, wizened Shinto priests sporting fleshy catfish whiskers—reminded me of Tomu Uchida’s equally evocative The Mad Fox.

While I enjoyed each of these plots on its own merits, as a whole, Demon Pond never becomes quite as compelling as its individual components. The inconsistencies in style and tone create a sense of dissonance and disharmony; the frequent shifts between the mundane and fantastical worlds feel contradictory rather than complementary. Ultimately, it’s just a muddled, confused, incoherent cinematic experience—occasionally enjoyable, but difficult to recommend.

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page