Horror Half-Week, Day 3: The Living Skeleton (1968)

On this third day of our spooky celebration, we’ll be taking a look at a classic, ghostly Japanese chiller. Previous Horror Half-Week 2018 posts: Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957) and The Brain Eaters (1958)

“Her wounded heart beats within my chest, torn and bleeding. It’s driving me to wreak vengeance on those beasts.”

When pirates overtake the Dragon King, they kill all of its passengers and crew, including Yoriko (Kikko Matsuoka) and her doctor husband. After stealing all of the ship’s valuables, they set it adrift, not to be seen again.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Three years later, the ship mysteriously reappears. Yoriko’s twin sister, Saeko (also played by Kikko Matsuoka), decides to visit the ship… and is promptly confronted by floating skeletons!

After Saeko’s visit to the boat, members of the pirate gang that raided the Dragon King begin getting killed off, one by one. Is someone exacting revenge, or are the ship’s unrestful spirits to blame?

The Living Skeleton was directed by Hiroshi Matsuno. It was written by Kyuzo Kobayashi and Kikuma Shimoiizaka.

The Living Skeleton begins with the real-life, human horror of piracy but quickly escalates to a tale of ghostly revenge. There’s a ghost ship, underwater scenes with floating skeletons, and even a bit of mad scientist flair thrown in.

The film has plenty of atmosphere and does a great job of building an eerie and melancholy mood. The widescreen black and white cinematography is wonderful.

The pacing between scenes of death and haunting can be a bit clunky, but the film still had no trouble holding my attention. The setting in and around the water bolstered my enjoyment, with its mystery of what lurks and gets trapped beneath the surface.

(Image via Janus Films)

Kikko Matsuoka kills it (no pun intended) in her dual role as sisters Saeko (who is mournful and alive) and Yoriko (who is angry, vengeful, and dead). I was totally captivated by her performance and though she did a fantastic job with both characters.

The Living Skeleton is easily my favorite Horror Half-Week discovery of the year. If you’re a FilmStruck subscriber, be sure to check this one out before the service shuts down next month.

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