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Film / The Sinners of Hell

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Abandon all hope, ye who enter here...

Jigoku (地獄), also known as The Sinners of Hell, is a 1960 Japanese horror film directed by Nobuo Nakagawa and starring Utako Mitsuya and Shigeru Amachi. It bears the distinction of being one of the first real "gorefest" movies, even preceding 1963's Blood Feast, as well as being one of the most graphic depictions of the horrors of the Buddhist Hell put to film.

Shirō (Shigeru Amachi) is a mild-mannered theology student. He is engaged to be married to Yukiko (Utako Mitsuya), the daughter of one of his teachers, Prof. Yajima. Shirō has poor taste in friends, unfortunately, hanging out with a creepy and rather unsettling fellow student named Tamura. One night when they've been out drinking, and with Tamura behind the wheel of the car, they strike and kill a gang leader named Kyōichi.

Tamura casually drives away, leaving Kyoichi to die in the street, much to Shirō's horror. Tamura believes they weren't seen, but Kyoichi's mother did see them, and she plots revenge. Meanwhile, tragedy strikes, with Yukiko killed in a car wreck while accompanying Shirō to the police station. A grief-stricken Shirō gets more bad news when he's told that his mother Ito is dying. He goes to visit her at the old folks' home that his parents operate, and while there he meets the various sleazy and criminal residents of the dilapidated retirement home. The one non-disgusting person he meets at the home is Sachiko, who is the spitting image of Yukiko (and also played by Utako Mitsuya) the daughter of a disgraced painter who is painting a portrait of Hell.

Kyōichi's mother and his girlfriend track Shirō down to the retirement home and attempt to avenge themselves. Tamura shows up at the home uninvited. Soon, everything goes pear-shaped as Shirō, Sachiko, Tamura, Kyōichi's mother, Kyōichi's girlfriend, and everyone at a party all wind up dead.

And then, everything goes straight to Hell.


The final third of the film takes place in the Buddhist Hell, where Shirō learns horrifying truths about the people in his life while witnessing the myriad horrors that his acquaintances have earned for their sins, all while trying to save the daughter that he learns that he had with Yukiko shortly before her death.

A loose remake was released in 1979 under the same title (known in English as The Inferno), and was directed by award-winning Roman Porno director, Tatsumi Kumashiro. Owing to Kumashiro's repertoire, the remake includes several sexually-charged scenes prior to the inevitable Hell segment.

This film contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Ensai, Sachiko's father. A talented artist who wound up drinking himself into the Bleak Abyss Retirement Home. He is first seen swigging from a bottle in the morning.
  • And I Must Scream: Various characters, as a result of their sins, are sentenced to be cut up, torn apart, flayed, sawed in half and die of thirst. Once the poor soul "dies" from their punishment, their mutilated bodies are reformed back to normal just to go through it all over again, forever and ever and ever!
  • Asshole Victim: You know what, it would be easier to count the victims that aren't in this movie!
  • Avenging the Villain: Kyōichi's girlfriend Yoko, as well as his mother, decide to work together and go after Shirō.
  • Bikini Bar: Yoko works at one, and meets Shirō there. Before Yoko strikes up a conversation with Shirō, he watches a woman on stage strip down to a bikini.
  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home:
    • It's bad when you're an old person basically left on a mat on the floor to die; it's even worse when your husband is cheating on you with some young tart in the very next room, within earshot.
    • The residents in the shabby common room complain about the food and accuse the doctor of skimming off of their welfare payments; he angrily denies it. He does however have no problem serving rotten fish to the residents.
    • Tamura calls it "charmingly shabby."
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Prof. Yajima's lecture about Buddhist hell proves prescient.
  • Corrupt Cop: Hariya, who wants to marry Sachiko, and threatens Ensai with an arrest for forgery if he doesn't give his daughter over. Tamura reveals that Hariya was bribed to frame a man who wound up killing himself.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone goes to hell after eating poisoned fish, and Shirō ultimately fails to save his daughter. (Or does he? The movie's final shot, showing the standard interpretation of Japanese Heaven, seems to imply that Shiro does succeed at the last possible moment.)
  • Driven to Suicide: Mr. and Mrs. Yajima, Kyōichi's mother, and Ensai.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Just about everyone in this film has committed a terrible sin, and are not very likeable either.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Kyōichi has a mother, as well as a girlfriend named Yoko, who both work together to get revenge on Shirō.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Lord Enma, since he oversees hell/the underworld and acts as a judge for the damned rather than a devil figure.
  • Eye Scream: One punishment Tamura and the corrupt reporter, the latter already missing an eye, are sentenced to is to have their eye(s) gouged out. Thankfully this is not shown actually happening, but the immediate result is.
  • Fanservice Extra: The half-naked and mostly naked women seen in the opening credits.
  • Flaying Alive: Not so much "alive" as "in Hell as a spirit/soul" but regardless, the punishment laid onto Shiro's father, easily the most evil person in the film as he causes the deaths of almost everyone in his retirement home, is to be skinned alive. The result of this punishment is shown twice on-screen, with exposed organs and bones and even his heart beating in his chest.
  • Gorn: It's often considered the first ever splatter flick, even predating the 1963 film Blood Feast by three years, and for good reason.
  • Gainax Ending: The last shot of the film is Yukiko and Sachiko calling to Shirō as lover and brother respectively whilst lotus petals fall all around them. What's up with that? Why is the music so calm all of a sudden? Why are they surrounded by bright lights? Are they going to Heaven? Nobody knows.
  • Gratuitous English:
    • Kyōichi exclaims, "Goddamn you!" after being hit by the car, before dying shortly afterwards.
    • Interestingly, the film closes with a "The End" title card instead of any Japanese equivalent of such, like "gan", "owari", "oshimai" and so on.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Dr. Kusuma's punishment, for caressly making multiple misdiagnoseses and caring far more about sex and money then the well-being of his patients and causing several to die slowly and painfully, is to be sawed at half at the waist, back to front.
  • Hell: Following everybody's deaths at the party, everyone winds up in Hell. The film is notable for graphically showing the torments of Hell. And we do mean graphically!
  • Honor Before Reason: Kyōichi's mom and girlfriend wanting to kill Shiro as well as Tamura. Tamura makes sense as he was the one driving and chose to flee the scene instead of stopping to help (though since Kyōichi expired not even a minute later, it wouldn't have done much good anyways) but Shiro was just the passenger in his car. Then again, grief can make people do strange things.
  • Identical Stranger: Yukiko, Shirō's fiancée, and Sachiko the pretty girl from the old folks' home are played by the same actress. Sachiko and Yukiko also have identical pink parasols, and Sachiko is introduced in a Call-Back in which she twirls the parasol before lowering it, just as Yukiko did in an earlier scene.
  • Ironic Hell: Prof. Yajima, who took water from a dying fellow soldier during World War II gets a torment similar to that of Tantalus—forever back in the war, dying of thirst, crawling to a puddle that evaporates as he approaches it.
  • Ironic Name: The sad, dumpy Bleak Abyss Retirement Home is called "Tenjoen", aka "Heavenly Garden".
  • Karma Houdini: Averted. Everyone ends up dead and in Hell, being punished for their sins!
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Ensai is Shirō's actual father, Sachiko is is Shirō's sister, and Ito is Shirō and Sachiko's mother.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's not entirely clear just who, or what, Tamura is. He has an inexplicable knowledge of all the evil deeds committed by everyone else in the movie. (He even manages to produce a photograph of Prof. Yajima stealing his comrade's water canteen some 15 years earlier during the war.) Shirō sees the taxi driver change into Tamura just for a moment, right before the taxi driver crashes the car. In one scene where Shirō and Sachiko are chatting by the railroad tracks, Tamura suddenly appears out of nowhere. Later he appears at the rope bridge, again out of nowhere. Then Tamura somehow manages to survive getting shot and falling a very long way off that rope bridge, showing back up at the retirement home with the gun. Towards the end, in Hell, Yukiko even calls him a demon, "the god of death,", to which Tamura cheerfully admits...but then we see him being tortured by the demon Lord Enma in the same way the other mortals were. It's rather confused.
    Tamura: I knew this would happen. I know everything, you know.
  • Non-Human Head: Some of the Oni in Hell have animal heads.
  • No-Tell Motel: Yoko takes Shirō for sex to a motel offering rooms for 700 yen—$2 in 1960 money.
  • Off with His Head!: One of the punishments laid onto Kyōichi's mother for assisting in poisoning the nursing home residents and killing Shiro is for her head to be cut off. Down swings the blade and her body is dragged away while her head remains in place, contorted and twitching in agony and trauma.
  • Plot Hole: Kyōichi's mom appears in Hell with the rest of the cast even though we never see her die; the movie leaves the real world behind once she strangles Shiro to death but not even a hint of how she died is given for the rest of the film. The Other Wiki at one point said she committed suicide but again, not one hint as to her cause of death. She is seen taking a drink from the poisoned sake after everyone had their drink, however. So it's safe to assume she had enough strength to strangle Shiro at that point before succumbing herself.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: A set of train tracks run very close to the retirement home and a train is seen and heard going by several times over the course of the film. The Yajimas commit suicide by jumping in front of said train off-screen.
  • Recurring Camera Shot: Women twirling parasols, then lowering them to reveal their faces. Yukiko does it with a pink one, her Identical Stranger Sachiko does it with an identical pink one, and Yoko the slutty bar girl does it with a red one.
  • Red Herring: Possibly an unintentional one; While Tamura is fleeing the scene of the accident, a couple shots have his car's license plate in the center of the frame with one of those shots following one of Kyōichi's mom watching him and Shiro driving off which one would think means she'll find them by tracing the plate number to Tamura's car. This information never comes into play.
  • Religious Horror: Welcome to Buddhist hell! There's a river made of pus and sewage!
  • Revenge: This is what Yoko and Kyōichi's mother have in mind when it comes to Shirō.
  • Rope Bridge: There is an old rope bridge over a canyon near the retirement home. Yoko lures Shirō there in order to kill him—but she makes the serious mistake of wearing high heeled shoes for the meeting.
  • The Sociopath: Tamura. He runs over and kills Kyōichi without even blinking over it, and blames Shirō for wanting to drive down the alley in the first place. (Although, since it's at least hinted that Tamura may be some kind of supernatural being, The Sociopath may not really apply.)
  • Surprise Incest: Shirō and Yukiko are just about to kiss when Ito pops up and tells them not to, as they are actually brother and sister. (Left unanswered is why they'd care, as they are already in Hell.)
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Sachiko and Yukiko look very much alike.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Several characters (including Kyochi's mom and Shiro's father) are punished by having their teeth bashed and broken out of their mouths by oni wielding clubs.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Yukiko and Sachiko.
  • Two-Act Structure: The first part in the mortal world, centering on Shirō as he goes through a tragedy, then goes to the Bleak Abyss Retirement Home and meets a bunch of terrible people—all of whom die. Right at the midpoint of the film he descends to Hell, with the rest of the movie taking place there.
  • Yakuza: Kyōichi is a Yakuza gang leader who was drunk, as well as hit and killed by the car Tamura was driving. His death kicks off the plot.

Alternative Title(s): Jigoku