Thursday, January 17, 2008

Japanese Screams - Volume 5

Ok, so, yeah, I lied, but who's paying attention. When you run into really excellent (not to mention) original horror films, you just kind of have to tell people (even if only technically) so that the unknown can be visited by others. So, this edition follows a film that I admit I wasn't nearly the first to discover; it made two rounds on TCM before I was able to catch the thing and Tarentino had already stolen from it by this time. But it is just as wild as anything and so deserves as much time in the sun as it can be given. This is a film after all that pays homage to American Alien films from the 50s and preempts Italian gross-out films by a few years. It's also got a head on it's shoulders that is a little more self-aware than Mario Bava's. In any case it knows enough to know that is its going to introduce plot elements like a frat-boy vomiting, it has to do so at the same pace. If we have time to catch our breathe, we would reel in the stupidity of some of these elements, but because they jump out at the audience like spring-loaded snakes, they make us smile with amazement, rather than shake our heads.

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell
by Hajime Sato

After an offscreen assassination of the British Prime minister, a plane full of crazies flying in a blood red sky are told in very quick succession that the assassin is on the plane, and so is a bomb, and the plane is going to crash into a UFO. Crash it does, leaving only a handful of people alive. The Co-Pilot and a stewardess from the plane, an American woman, two business men, the guy with the bomb, a psychiatrist, and the assassin are all alive on what I take to be a deserted island (Now, I say this because there appears to be only a beach and rain forest surrounding them. In hindsight, my assumption was really just that, as their whereabouts are never discussed until the ending, when I found myself flabbergasted by the truth. In all fairness, if I was right and this is a deserted island, than the ending would be ten times as big a kick in the pants). Soon after they land, the assassin tries to make off with a hostage, but is stopped when they encounter the UFO, now parked and glowing red on the other side of the beach. The aliens dispatch a slimy, worm-like ambassador which burrows into the assassin's face and possesses him. After the initial panic, the survivors realize that they are in a hell of a jam and need to try and work together to overcome A. The well-dressed alien stalking them, B. the possibility that there they may be more where he came from, C. the thought of never being rescued, D. the fact that everyone but the co-pilot, stewardess and psychiatrist are either crazy or so prickish and self-involved that they could get everyone killed.

I like these movies because we are made painfully aware from the start that absolutely no one is on the level. It's a blast watching everybody trying to look out for themselves in Japanese films (for me this never carried over into Spanish or Italian movies, because they never present me with anyone worth liking). Hajime Sato took the frantic pace of his contemporaries' Yakuza pictures, the gore and character types from the Italian horror films of the time, and the plot devices from American flying saucer films (and a little from 40s crime films, too) and blended them together in bolder-than-reality Fujiscope; The colors could give anyone a heart-attack.

This is a very professional film: It never meanders, never slacks off, never shies away from itself, makes its 3 or 4 trick endings seem logical and is an absolute blast. Pay close attention, because this is definitely a blink-and-miss-it type film. Every second of craziness works and amounts to a truely bizarre ride, and to be left out of any of it is silly. The art and effects are really cool (and as if it needed to be said, ahead of their time). Some of them are like pulp comic drawings come to life. The images here are striking and this seems an important steppingstone in horror pictures. 


Alex said...

wow. your still doing this?? ...

I'm still checking??

Scout said...

Yes. Yes I Am. And Thank you for your continued support and readership!