Starring: Ken Ogata Shima Iwashita Mayumi Ogawa Hiroki Iwase
Running time: 110 min.
Reviewed by Bob Turnbull
"The Demon" isn't filled with fire-breathing winged creatures or appearances from Satan's messengers, but it doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of extremely disturbing moments in this tragic tale. You may even wish for a couple of actual demons to suddenly appear surrounded by flames - just to liven up the mood a bit.
The story begins with an obviously harried woman bringing her three young children - one year old Shoji, three year old Yoshiko and Riichi, the eldest at six - into the city. She eventually tracks down the location of the children's father and we learn that he is actually married to another woman. In a short flashback sequence, we see how he began the affair with the children's mother - she was a hostess that helped him hold a number of events for his customers and one night he drunkenly jumps her. She asks if he is serious and whether he will support and he agrees. When she becomes pregnant, he agrees again to continue support and encourages her to have the child since he has always wanted his own children. However, now that she has three kids by him and his own business is faltering, there is barely enough money for him and his wife to survive, let alone support a mistress and three children.
Things have now come to a head - the affair is out in the open, the mistress demands to be supported and his wife wants nothing to do with the children. The arguing continues in heightened melodramatic fashion, but all of it happens right in front of the children and it begins to get a little bit disturbing. The mistress insists on staying in the house until things get resolved, but during the night she screams at the couple that since they can't have any children of their own, they can have hers - and she runs off. He tries to track her down the next day, but to no avail. She's abandoned her children and the responsibility falls directly on him. He's also strapped for cash, on the verge of losing the business and can't even get another loan since he can't pay the interest on the current one. His wife continuously mocks him and berates the children and he can only respond in a cowardly fashion. She keeps stating that the children aren't his and that she won't lift a finger to help them. She will, however, lift more than a finger to hit, punish, slap and otherwise physically abuse them. The disturbing nature of the film settles in at this point - through many scenes of ominous music, you know that something has to give and that something, likely nothing good, is going to happen.
Several scenes jump out: little Shoji playing with dishes and food around the table until the wife grabs him and begins stuffing his mouth with balls of rice; Yoshiko being dragged to her father by the wife who then dumps laundry detergent all over her stating she is dirty and smelly; the father's attempts to desert Yoshiko at Tokyo Tower. As things begin to cave in on them, he and his wife start to lose sense of right and wrong. She's previously mentioned that he should just strangle the brats, but she becomes more intent on "resolving" their situation. Her casual suggestions of how to get rid of the children individually - particularly when she describes how they should poison Riichi or push him off a cliff - are quite terrifying.
Yoshitaro Nomura's film is by no means a fun time, nor is it really an entertaining one. It does a terrific job though of painting a picture of a nightmarish scenario and the corners into which an individual can paint themselves - especially with society's help.