The closing film of the Tokyo International Film Festival back in 2006, this movie is a remake by the late Kon Ichikawa of one of his own, whose original film based on the same novel by Seishi Yokomizo, was made some 30 years ago. Anyway this is nothing new or surprising, given that filmmakers do revisit some of their earlier works (Funny Games anyone?). I haven't seen the original so I don't have a basis for comparison, so take it from me that I'm watching this for the very first time, even though some of the principal cast members return to take up their same roles in this remake, such as Koji Ishizaka as the private eye Kosuke Kindaichi and Takeshi Kato as Chief Todoroki.
Murder of the Inugami Clan is extremely old school, in the classic sense of the word. One shouldn't expect some snazzy updating on the look and feel to it what with special effects, or worse, over the top acting. Everything is still extremely measured, capped by genuinely good performances all round, and in a whodunnit, has plenty of red herrings to keep you busy, while never wasting any time in moving the narrative forward. It sustains its mystery with the dead showing up frequently, teasing you with possibilities and options, in a race against time for the detective Kosuke and the relatively inept police to figure out the crime.
And the crime is committed over a struggle for property and riches. The pariah of the Inugami has passed away, and in his wake is revealed a will that is safekept by the family lawyer. The conditions of the will can only be made known when all members of the family, and its extended links, congregate in the family home in Nagano, and the terms and conditions of inheritance is nothing short of mind-boggling, especially when a seemingly distant outsider in Tamayo (Nanako Matshushima) has to decide who amongst the scions of the family she has to marry, in order to gain control over a large chunk of family fortune.
So the whodunnit begins, when dead bodies appear with family members getting bumped off in some really grotesque fashion. In fact, having the presence of a masked Sukekiyo, due to injuries sustained in WWII, is chilling enough, as we only see the eyes of a man whose identity is suspect by everyone, since he has something obvious to hide. Kon Ichikawa sticks to ketchup blood, but even then, the imagery of the grizzly crime still sticks vividly to your mind, especially when these are enacted for the audience to see from Kosuke's perspective.
As much as the movie takes its time to set things up, it also takes as much time to decompress all the events for you, which I thought on one hand was rather enjoyable to be taken through, but on the other wondered about the necessity of having to show everything again in verbatim terms. There are enough twists and turns in the movie, though at times you might feel that you are one step ahead, because I suppose for a more cynical audience in today's context, you would find it rather easy to cut through the smoke and mirrors, and get to the point.
Still, it makes for excellent viewing since I can't resist a good detective story, which seems to be quite scarce these days.