I am not a huge scholar of Japanese occult lore, but one of the creators involved in design for this film seems to be have been pretty serious about the subject. Many of the powers possessed by the “witch” character look to be derived from the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō, “The Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons”, which was published in the 1700’s. See in particular Jorōgumo and Takaonna, as well as the better known shape-shifting foxes.
Contrary to the blather of a whole chorus of clueless reviewers, the creature at the beginning of the film is also not a random monster–I suspect it’s meant to be a Ushi-Oni, an “ox-demon” like the one which the people parade around every year at the Uwajima Ushi-oni festival in Japan.
And then of course there are the cool tengu.
I dunno. I think I’d really have to hate Keanu Reeves to an outlandish degree to find reason to hate this movie. In general, the massive panning of this film by critics is something I find deeply disturbing, and disappointing.
I take as a sign that the Internet is working the exact opposite way that it should, for a sizable majority of human beings. Instead of understanding and accepting that they don’t know everything, of being CURIOUS about the meaning of art that might initially be mysterious…people cultivate a defensive posture of peevish, hateful, self-righteous ignorance. They assume that because they cannot immediately penetrate the meaning of a symbol or image, that the artist had no meaning in mind.
It saddens me. But I hope that other fantasy fans will go see the flick and enjoy it as much as I did.