20 August 2008 | Maito
For people, who are only familiar with director Kon Ichikawa's WW II masterpieces "Fires on The Plains" and "Burmese Harp", "The Inugami Family" may seem like an odd and not very essential entry in Ichikawa's filmography, but actually, this is Ichikawa's biggest domestic hit, he directed three sequels to it and even remade it in 2006 as "Murder of the Inugami Clan". This is essential Ichikawa and it's surprisingly little seen in the west.
This is the kind of film where it's best to know very little about the plot, so I'll just give you the basic setting. The head of the wealthy Inugami family dies and leaves behind a last will, which disappoints nearly everybody. The sole beneficiary is a young girl who is not part of the family, but there's a catch. She has to marry one of the old man's three grandsons and if she doesn't the inheritance will be divided among the closest relatives. Naturally, the family starts fighting, but soon things get out of hand, people start getting killed. Our protagonist, private detective Kindaichi, enters to solve things. It's very complex story and demands your full attention. Everyone lies, people aren't who they say they are, the many characters are only briefly introduced, but in the end everything should be clear.
This is very reminiscent of Agatha Christie's works, but even though "The Inugami Family" is undoubtedly part of the detective genre, there's more than that to it. It also has notable elements of horror, family drama and even social commentary, but the clever plot aside, it's Ichikawa's direction that raises this above your average 'whodunnit'. "The Inugami Family" is visually stunning and even experimental for its day.
If you don't mind the occasional violence, the demanding plot and the long running time (though I wouldn't call it overlong) this will be definitely worth watching at least once. As it is with many mystery films, this might prove less effective upon re-watching. Still thoroughly entertaining the first time around.