Filmmaker Kihachiro Kawamoto Makes Puppetry Even More Terrifying

Let’s face it: Just by its very nature, stop-motion animation is creepy. A stop-motion Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, for example, wouldn’t be winning and cute; it would be nightmarish and upsetting. But the genre has never been as disturbing as it is in the atmospheric films of Japanese stop-motion and puppet legend Kihachiro Kawamoto. Based on a twelfth-century Japanese legend, the aptly titled The Demon is about two brothers who go hunting in the woods and run into a demon, with unforeseen consequences. A dramatic mixture of animation, graphic wizardry, severed limbs, and even dance, Kawamoto’s seven-minute epic-in-miniature works its way to a deeply unsettling twist. Thankfully, U.S. viewers will get a chance to explore the director’s films more fully when Kino and KimStim release two DVDs of Kawamoto’s sublime work next week: His beautiful 2005 feature The Book of the Dead, and a selection of his short films (including this one).—Bilge Ebiri