Tuesday, December 6, 2011

These 'shrooms provide majorily bad trips

Matango (aka "Attack of the Mushroom People") (1962)
Starring: Akira Kubo, Miki Yashiro, Kumi Mizuno, Hiroshi Koizumi, Hiroshi Tachikawa, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Kenji Sahara
Director: IshirĂ´ Honda
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A sudden storm maroons a group of pleasure-boaters on an uncharted island inhabited by strange mushroom creatures.

If "Gilligan's Island" were a horror movie, then this would be it. We have the Skipper and Little Buddy characters (although they're contemptuous of their passengers and treacherously self-centered as opposed to bumbling and helpful); we have Ginger and Mary-Ann (although one is a shy student and the other a bitchy diva), the Millionaire (the owner of the yacht who is always quick to remind everyone else how rich he is... and the bitchy diva stands in for His Wife), and finally, the Professor (who is, well... the Professor).

"Mantango" is a far more effective horror film than I expected to see from the home of Godzilla and who-knows-how-many-other giant monsters. It stars out feeling like an adventure flick, but once our crew of castaways find the wrecked research vessel on the coast of the island where they are marooned, a sense of claustrophobic horror starts to build. And as desperation starts to grip our band of contentious castaways, it becomes more and more evident that they have nowhere to hide from the monsters or each other.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the film was that the monsters--the mushroom people--were not as silly as I expected them to be. Perhaps it was because they were tied in with the fact that the only way for the characters to survive was to eat food they knew would turn them into monsters, but the effective make-up effects and costumes also played a role.

While I wasn't thrilled with the "shocking twist ending"--which was so bad that it rivals some of the worst modern offenders I've complained about--everything prior to it as very well done. It's a horror film that's free of gore and nudity, so it can be enjoyed by the entire family. Heck, it's even free of stringy-haired girl-ghosts, so this might just be a Japanese horror flick that even those who are sick of them can enjoy!

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