Q: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

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Like a lot of Americans, I was introduced to this movie as Five Million Years to Earth, because Warner Brothers/Seven Arts didn’t want to face a bunch of palookas moaning wut the hail is a quartermess? Probably wise, but said palookas were likely still not ready for one of the best science-fiction horror movies of all time.

A bunch of workers on a London subway extension uncover some skulls buried in the clay, and as is the law, all work must stop as anthropologist Dr. Roney (James Donald) and his assistant Barbara (Barbara Shelley) begin excavating the remarkable find – Roney estimates the age of the skulls at five million years, possibly the oldest ancestor of man yet. Then a sort of metallic wall is unearthed, and there is a very real possibility that they’ve found an unexploded bomb from the Blitz.

Meanwhile, our old pal Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir, this time) is receiving the bad news that his British Rocket Group is being co-opted by the military, in the person of Colonel Breen (Julian Glover). On their way back to Rocket Group, the Colonel is called upon to advise about this thing in the clay (which is a very clever way to get Quatermass involved, I must say).

As the soldiers uncover more of the object, it becomes plain that it is something novel; the magnetic stethoscopes of the bomb specialist will not stick, so it isn’t steel. Blowtorches have no effect. And in one recess, a completely intact skull is found, which means the object has been down there as long as the skulls – five million years.

Under Barbara’s insistence, Quatermass begins to piece together the odd history of that part of London, named Hob’s End – Hob, of course, being another name for the devil. It is infamous for sightings of strange, goblin-like creatures and visitations of Old Scratch. When the entire object is uncovered, it is obvious that it is not, as Colonel Breen insists, some sort of Nazi Propaganda weapon, but a spacecraft. Especially when a sealed chamber of the craft opens to reveal four dead insectoid creatures, preserved in some sort of unnatural ice, and now decaying rapidly.

The upshot is the creatures are probably Martians, and faced with the death of their planet five million years before, began experimenting on the apes of Earth to create a lifeform that would carry on their way of life. Fortunately, we evolved past the hivemind state the Martians wanted, but buried racial memories translated the insects into horned demons. A further problem is that spacecraft is actually alive, and is waking up and reinforcing the hivemind – which insists that any living being not a part of the hivemind must be destroyed.

Nigel Kneale wrote some of the most thoughtful science fiction/horror stories for the BBC back in the day, and I think most acknowledge Quatermass and the Pit as his masterpiece. It’s hard to explain what a thunderbolt this movie was, with its effortless blending of the two genres, because so much of it has been co-opted in the following years. The most blatant – and loving – example is John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, which he wrote under the nom de plume Martin Quatermass. To that you can add the magnificent mess that is Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (whose source novel was far more Lovecraftian)

Kneale was the most satisfied with this film of his work (and rightfully so), and Andrew Keir – since this was my first Quatermass movie, Andrew Keir was Quatermass, as far as I was concerned. Imagine my surprise when I finally caught up with the first two movies, The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2 (or, thanks to the palookas, The Creeping Unknown and Enemy from Space) and got Brian Donlevy. Donlevy was cast to sell the movies in America, and Kneale hated him. A brusque and domineering version of the character, I cannot imagine Donlevy in this movie. When the Minister tells Quatermass that the object is now exclusively under the command of Colonel Breen, Donlevy would have thrown his badge at him and resigned from the force.

I used to have the original BBC serial on a double VHS set from Sinister Cinema, with Andre Morell playing Quatermass. I really like Morell, but for some reason he turned down the film version. And as I said earlier, I love Keir in the role.

If you’ve not yet seen Quatermass and the Pit (or Five Million Years to Earth, you palooka), you owe it to yourself to remedy that. Highest possible recommendation.

Every halfway-reasonably priced disc for Quatermass and the Pit is only playable on Region 2/B players. But if you have three and half hours, here’s that original TV serial:

 

P: Panic Beats (1983)

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No, no, no, I just TOLD you it wasn’t THAT Alaric de Marnac!

Well, here it is. The third of four Paul Naschy movies I managed to schedule this year. The last two, in case you’re joining us late, were Exorcismo and The Valdemar Legacy/La Herencia Valdemar. It was my intent to spread my nets wider for movies this year, and this was the unintended result, aided by the fact that I hadn’t watched many of his movies, I’m sure.

Anyway, let’s just get this out of the way: SPOILER ALERTS FOR A 35 YEAR-OLD MOVIE. I’ll try not to give everything away, but then, up to a point, Panic Beats is pretty predictable. (Also, if you’re a Mondo Macabro fan, their disc-opening promo has already shown you most of the money shots)

We start with that Paul Naschy standard, an opening scene with murder and a naked woman. She’s running bloody through some woods, pursued by a mounted man in a full suit of armor. This is the infamous Alaric de Marnac, last seen in Horror Rises From the Tomb, tracking down and killing his unfaithful wife. Okay, so it’s not really that Alaric de Marnac, but it’s still Paul Naschy.

Yep, that’s Paris, all right.

After credits, cut to present day Paris, where Paul Marnac (still Naschy) is told he has to take his rich wife Genevieve (Julia Saly) away from the hectic life of a Paris socialite, or her heart condition will kill her. Marnac will take her to his remote ancestral home to recuperate, along the way running into bandits (so we’re still having Horror Rises From the Tomb flashbacks), the fright of which nearly kills Genevieve on the spot.

At the house she meets Mabile (Lola Gaos), the housekeeper who has been there forever, and her young thug niece Julie (Frances Ondivela), whom Mabile is trying to reform. Mabile is the receptacle of all the folklore associated with the Marnac family, especially the guy who opened the movie and whose sardonic portrait graces the wall: Good old Alaric, who in this version was not beheaded, but did turn to Satanism and got burned down with his castle. This house was built on its ashes. Supposedly Alaric comes back every hundred years or so to clean house again. This tale gives Julie nightmares because we really needed something interesting to happen at this point.

Slight digression: I’m still not sure if it was wise or not for the movie to name-check Rebecca.

Genevieve slowly regains her strength over the next month. Julie rather sadistically her the story of Alaric, and then things go downhill again. Nightmares, snakes and figures in armor appearing mysteriously in the night. Dinner plates covered with blood and eyeballs. Stuff like that.

Now, it’s going to be obvious to anyone that it’s all a plot to literally scare Genevieve to death. The only question is who, and since there are only two possible suspects, the mystery is not all that engaging. Remember the fright shows with a similar intent in The Tingler? Those were studied models of speed and efficiency compared to the ones in Panic Beats. It is tempting to brand it Milk That Scene: The Movie. I did a lot of time-remaining checking.

Then Genevieve’s heart finally cashes in, the mystery, such as it is, is solved… and there’s still a half hour of movie?!?

At this point Panic Beats  actually managed to engage my interests, as plots and counter-plots emerge, more people have to be killed, and a mysterious figure from Julie’s past emerges, though we’re not allowed to see his face. It does get complicated to a point where we’re not really sure what is real and what is not, and that is generally a type of movie I enjoy.

I was once told that you had to endure the first hour and fifteen minutes of Evilspeak, the Clint Howard shower scenes and puppy killing, just to get to the cool ending. I guess the same criteria holds for Panic Beats, except that first hour wasn’t all that terrible. The best part is Lola Gaos as the housekeeper, really. She can really turn on the scary when she needs to.

Hm. I see Amazon has one DVD available for seventy bucks. Here… Happy Hubrisween!

 

O: Onmyoji: The Yin Yang Master (2001)

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220px-onmyoji-2001-film-posterOne of the best things about casting the nets wider for this year’s Hubrisween offerings is finding that occasional gem you had no idea existed and being dazzled and deeply satisfied by it. And such a gem is Onmyoji.

An onmyoji is a practitioner of onmyodo, “a traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology, a mixture of natural science and occultism” according to Wikipedia. The article goes on to point out that in the Heian period (roughly 794-1185), the onmyoji had real political clout.

The movie begins in a fairly enigmatic fashion, with a ritual sealing of Shogun’s Mound, a tomb to trap the wrathful spirit of the wrongly persecuted Prince Sawara; he had cursed the former capitol city, so the new capitol – which will come to be known as Kyoto – is built over the tomb.

150 years later, the city has grown, and is quite prosperous under its current Mikado. The leader of the Court Onmyoji, Doson (Hiroyuki Sanada) is craftily playing the powerful Minister of the Left against the Minister of the Right to cause chaos in the palace, to what end, we shall just have to let the plot develop and see.

We are introduced to our actual title character, Abe no Seimei (Mansai Nomura), an extremely powerful magician. One of the more venal lords demands he prove his power by killing a butterfly without touching it; when a leaf blown by Seimei slices the butterfly in half, the lord flees in terror. Also witnessing this is Hiromasa (Hideaki Itô), a minor lord who is further discomfited when the master of his house sends him to Seimei to beg him to investigate supernatural goings-on.

vlcsnap-2017-01-04-13h02m47s51Hiromasa protested when the lord demanded Seimei kill the butterfly, and he is honestly delighted to find that the death was an illusion, and in fact the pretty girl who greeted him at Seimei’s gate is the butterfly in human form (Eriko Imai). These two things cause the normally cool Seimei to warm toward Hiromasa, and they are going to become close companions in the course of the story.

The Japan of this period, we are told, is a time when demons walk the land, and it is the onmyoji who protect mankind from them and their curses. Doson’s power games in the palace are going to require Seimei’s intervention more than once, until the wizard’s master plan is revealed: unleashing the spirit of Prince Sawara, and binding it to himself for ultimate power.

"Oh my! You ARE sick!"

“Oh my! You ARE sick!”

I’m going to enjoy any movie involving magic that’s done well, and Onmyoji is certainly that; Abe no Seimei is a freaking 10th century Doctor Strange, and the revelations of his power are continually surprising and delightful. Hiromasa is a fine Dr. Watson character, providing someone to whom Seimei can explain things (and thereby explain them to us), and a humanizing counterbalance to Seimei’s otherworldly aloofness. In a reversal of one aspect of the Holmes/Watson dichotomy, Hiromasa is the musician of the two, and his masterful ability on the flute is pertinent to the story, as is his continually doomed love life (more on those in the sequel, which we’ll get to eventually).

The intriguing characters don’t stop with our heroes. There is the enigmatic Lady Aone (Kyôko Koizumi), apparently immortal. And Dosun’s familiar, possibly the most metal crow ever committed to film.

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“O soundless, invisible God of woe – may you reap all you have sown.”

Onmyoji is based on a series of novels by Baku Yumemakura, popular enough to be adapted to both manga and television. And after finding all this out, this gaijin was surprised to discover that Abe no Seimei is an actual, historical person. Was he truly a combination of Doctor Who and Harry Potter? We will never know, but it’s nice to think that he was.

As I said, I found this movie tremendously entertaining. I am alternately thrilled that there is a sequel and saddened that there is only one sequel. We will get to that one later. Like in ten letters later.

Buy Onmyoji on Amazon

N: Nightwish (1989)

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If a lifetime of watching horror movies teaches you anything, it’s that if a movie opens with a sequence that seems like a fully-contained and realized horror movie in itself, it is either going to be a) a dream, or b) somebody else making a movie with an impossibly complex series of continuing shots. Yes, I am still bitter about Frankenstein 1970.

In the case of Nightwish, it is the former, as a debutante leaves some sort of prom night party and finds first a single shoe, then a bloody sock, then a severed hand, then some ghoul eating a corpse. A chase scene ensues, ending with her being cornered outside a locked trailer and screaming.

Let’s get our exploitation out of the way right off the… top…

But, as mentioned, this is all the dream of Donna (Elizabeth Kaitan), who wakes up inside an isolation tank. This is all part of the graduate program under the slightly sinister Professor No Name (Jack Starrett), who is conducting experiments in “guided dreaming”, with the intent of his students experiencing their death in a dream to toughen them up for what they have to face. The trouble is, every one of them has awakened before that moment.

But never mind that, let’s have some credits and then get on with our movie, as the students drive toward their first field exercise. We have Donna, Kim (Alisha Das), Jack (Clayton Rohner) and Kim’s rather disagreeable boyfriend Dean (Brian Thompson). They’re headed through the desert to a mining magnate’s abandoned home, perched atop an equally abandoned mine in an area known for earthquakes, mutants, and UFOs. Already at the house with the Professor is Bill (Artur Cybulski), the last of our graduate troupe.

The house is also known to be haunted, and Satanists were frequent visitors. After an attempt at a high-tech seance àl a The Legend of Hell House involving an ectoplasmic tentacle, things generally go to hell, as we find out the Professor is a genuinely mad scientist with a brutish and sadistic assistant (Robert Tessier, of course) intent on raising a demon from hell. On the other hand, all the weirdness seems to be alien invaders needing human bodies to host their larva. On the other hand, all these may be hallucinations create by the tentacle-wielding “Entity” to increase paranoia and dissension among the students. On the other hand…

Oh, hell, SPOILER ALERT FOR A 30 YEAR OLD MOVIE. This is, as you figured out three minutes after the opening credits, Kim’s guided dream, and she actually manages to make it to her own death. In the isolation tank lab, everybody congratulates her on her fine work, but Kim isn’t sure she’s actually awakened. In a nicely Bava-esque closer, it seems that she hasn’t, and may not.

As a movie that tries very hard to be a nightmare put to film, Nightwish should be a lot more interesting. It tries to hit every horror setup you might be able to think of, from Texas Chainsaw Massacre torture dungeons to ghosts to Alien body horror, and yet somehow makes so much of that tedious. There are a lot of other mixmaster movies that don’t even achieve this level of competence – Spookies comes to mind – but more than once I had to hit the fast forward because okay, okay, I get it, move on. It’s to the movie’s credit that I didn’t do it more than twice.

The actors are a game lot, but the script does them no favors. Brian Thompson’s career was just starting to take off, and he manages to take the one note he’s given and turn it into at least an interesting rock riff. Robert Tessier could do the Menacing Hulk role in his sleep. All the others have varied careers, and it’s worth noting that none of them are one-movie johnnies, which is the case in most of these forgotten flicks. KNB (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, for all you non-Fango readers) handle the special effects, but don’t really get to strut their stuff until the last half-hour.

Information about the making of Nightwish is very scarce. We know that it was shot in 1988 but not released until 1990 – both Starrett and Tessier had passed away by then – and then it was direct to video. These were the dark days of VHS, which means every copy out there – I’ve yet to see any mention of a letterboxed version – is open matte to 4:3, so the boom mike should have been given an onscreen credit. That’s not the fault of the director or the boom operator – that’s the fault of people allergic to black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. They are the real monsters.

Writer/director Bruce R. Cook worked his way up the ladder from camera & electrical to the director’s chair on two flicks – this one and The Census Taker. Nightwish can’t be described as a gem in the rough, it’s more like a semi-precious stone. Worth a look, if you like semi-precious stones.

It’s okay. I wear turquoise.

Hey… it’s available in October!

M: The Mummy (2017)

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Please note I insist on using the poster without Cruise.

Good grief, where to begin?

I guess the beginning will suffice. The beginning’s okay.

In the early 12th century, Templars bury one of their own, with a mysterious jewel, in a hidden tomb. The tomb is discovered in modern times, and a odd panel of hieroglyphics tells the tale of an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), destined to inherit her kingdom – until her father has a son late in life. Ahmanet strikes a deal with the god Set, murders her father and half-brother, and is preparing to complete the rite which will incarnate Set into a living man – but the rite is interrupted and Ahmanet is mummified alive and interred in yet another hidden crypt.

All this is fine, if rather reminiscent of the opening of the 1999 Mummy. Nice to see a female version of the monster. I like Sofia Boutella.

Get out of my genre, Tom.

Back to present day, however, in Iraq, where ISIL is tearing down an ancient temple. Two Army scouts are watching from a nearby hill, One pulls down his scarf, revealing he is Tom Cruise, and everything goes to shit. Because at that point, it becomes a Tom Cruise movie.

I don’t hate Tom Cruise, as many people seem to – I just don’t watch his movies, mostly. I will admit enjoying the last two Mission Impossible movies, and Eyes Wide Shut, but he’s just not a factor that draws me to a movie. The story will continue to illustrate to me why this is so. Cruise is Nick Morton, who stole a map with some coordinates from a one-night stand with Jenny (Annabelle Wallis). He figures there’s buried treasure, and he and his partner, Chris (Jake Johnson) will be rich.

This is a bad plan, and Chris winds up calling in an airstrike just to save both their asses. The strike uncovers a hidden tomb, and re-enter Jenny, who holds an unreasonable amount of clout with the military. She gets a limited amount of time to examine the tomb, and against her better judgement is assigned Nick and Chris to assist.

Jenny represents a global organization called Prodigium. Prodigium means a number of things, among them portents, or wonders, or monsters. In this case, it seems to mean Bad Ideas ‘R’ Us as what they find is Ahmanet’s hidden prison tomb. Jenny correctly interprets all the signs and machinery as meaning DO NOT DISTURB, GO AWAY, THIS MEANS YOU, DON’T DO IT and she is still determined to bring this piece of erased history to light.

The cargo plane carrying our supposed heroes and the sarcophagus run into problems, mainly Chris getting possessed and killed and a flock of kamikaze crows causing the plane to crash (this movie can’t even get me involved enough to do the murder of crows joke). Nick manages to get Jenny into a parachute and out, but in the crash the sarcophagus is lost, and everybody is killed, including Nick. Yay!

Here’s an exciting scene from the movie we SHOULD have gotten.

Except that Nick wakes up later in the morgue. Ahmanet is loose, sucking out souls to regain her power. Nick is under some sort of curse and cannot die, or so he is told by his dead buddy Chris, who keeps following him around and trying to guide him to Ahmanet, who wants that jewel found in the Templar tomb to complete her magic dagger, and Nick’s deathless body to incarnate Set into, so she can rule the world in darkness, which is what your modern-day movie mummies do. None of that profaning-the temple or reincarnated love claptrap. That’s your grandmother’s Mummy movie.

This is still an okay setup for a movie. The major problem with the execution is that at this point the movie becomes entirely about Nick Morton, with the title character essentially becoming what seems to be an afterthought that annoyed the filmmakers. Ahmanet is captured in the second act and spends a remarkable amount of time restrained in a chamber while Prodigium embalms her with mercury (which seems to be the equivalent of silver in the Dark Universe), so that Dr. Jekyll can dissect her.

Oh, yes, the head of Prodigium is none other than Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). His plan to dissect Ahmanet is in keeping with the organization’s credo of “The Worst Plan Possible”, as is his practice of injecting himself with the necessary drugs to prevent him from turning into Mr. Hyde (with, of course, an extreeeeeeeeme six-chambered hypo) at the very last second.

But I don’t really mind that – Russell Crowe is one of the very few bright spots in this movie. He’s the only one who seems to know what kind of movie he’s making – one that is destined to be labeled a Superfund site – and has decided “Fuck it!” and goes for it.

Reportedly Cruise used his influence during shooting and editing to emphasize his character, but whatever actually happened, the result is disastrous. Annabelle Wallis’s main function is to convince us that Nick Morton is actually a good person, and Cruise doesn’t cooperate. His usual wisecracking manchild persona just doesn’t fit here, and concentrating on that to the detriment of the intended story basically mummifies it alive. For a movie called The Mummy, there is damned little Mummy and a whole lot of some sort of Wandering Jew character that has no prior instance in the pop mythology supposedly being employed. How the hell do you hire Sofia Boutella and then not use her?

Did you know that the dictionary has a new illustration for “Hubris”?

This is rather famously Universal’s “No! Really! This time for sure!” launch of their Dark Universe titles, something that had been attempted before with 2010’s The Wolfman and 2014’s Dracula Untold, both of which apparently no longer exist, as far as Universal is concerned. The sad part is, they could have probably capitalized on the 1999 Mummy and even its sequels, which were at least entertaining, not an endurance contest like this one. As it is, it merely makes us miss that movie, and constantly ripping off An American Werewolf in London with the undead Chris doesn’t help matters, either.

As I did with I, Frankenstein, I’m going to quote a tweet from film writer A. M. Novak, who makes this very excellent point:

It has been proven over and over again that the rich heritage of Universal’s 1930s mastery of the horror genre is in very wrong hands. Supposedly The Bride is Frankenstein was next, though at the very beginning of October, Universal announced they were pulling the plug on it. Horror fans breathed a sigh of relief, since judging from The Mummy, that one would have wound up being about The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Buy The Mummy on Amazon. See if I care.

 

L: The Living Head (1963)

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There was a golden age of living severed heads in horror movies for about six years, from 1957’s The Man Without a Body, then 1958’s The Thing that Couldn’t Die (remade as Horror Rises from the Tomb in ’73) up through Germany’s The Head and the amazingly sleazy The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. I’m sure there are more (it’s the internet, I’ll get told), but we’re here to talk about what may have been the last one for awhile, 1963’s La Cabeza Viviente. The Living Head, for all you gringos.

We start with those fun-loving Aztecs, as their high priest Xiu (Guillermo Kramer) sacrifices a guy for causing the death of their mightiest warrior, Acatl (Mauricio Garcés). In fact, all that’s left of Acatl is his head, in his ceremonial headdress. Xiu hands off the Ring of Death to the High Priestess (Ana Luisa Pellufo), and informs her that she and he will be hanging around Acatl’s tomb for eternity. Then he curses anybody who profanes the tomb, and gets sealed in.

This bling is getting out of hand

That Ring of Death is freaking huge, by the way, and crested with the fakest eyeball you have ever seen. It has to be that large for the blinking light bulb inside the eye.

So in the modern day, three scientists (Salvador Lozano, Antonio Raxel, and Mexican horror icon Germán Robles) discover the tomb and make with the profanin’. Acatl’s head and Xiu’s body, in their sarcophagi, are remarkably well-preserved; the high priestess, however, didn’t get a box and is merely standing against a wall. She disintegrates, leaving behind only the Ring of Death, which Muller (Robles) decides to give to his daughter Marta (also Peluffo, conveniently enough), as one does with priceless historical artifacts.

Oh, that’s your answer for everything.

Muller is also keeping all the damned artifacts in his house instead of the museum, including Xiu’s corpse, still clutching his obsidian dagger in a death grip. Marta’s boyfriend Roberto (Garcés again, I wonder if that’s going to be significant) notices some incredibly obvious footprints leading from Xiu’s sarcophagus, and is immediately pish-tushed by Muller.

It’s not too long before Xiu is wandering around and cutting out hearts to leave on Acatl’s altar, guided by the current possessor of the pulsing Ring of Death (Marta) until she refuses to kill her own father. Unfortunately, Roberto has found the Ring (thown out the window by a fearful Marta) and is possessed, but he too will not kill the people Xiu wants. It all looks pretty grim until Acatl points out that Marta and Roberto are played by the same actors as himself and the high priestess, which apparently shocks Xiu so much that Inspector Toledo (Abel Salazar, another horror icon) is able to shoot him to death. The end.

That all sounds pretty silly, but it has to be admitted that The Living Head  proceeds with a no-nonsense pace and rarely has a dull moment. It’s a typical Mummy death-to-the-tomb-raiders story, but the addition of those ancient Aztec blood rites gives it a visceral lift, and as I said, the pace is good – it really is a perfect example of how to do such stories, even if Muller keeping all this stuff in his home stretches the ol’ willing suspension far enough to use it to slice cheese. If nothing else, it’s fun to see Nostradamus the Vampire and The Brainiac being on the menaced side of the plot for a change. This is one of the better examples of Mexican horror cinema; not world-changing, but at least as competently made as its low-budget American brethren, and certainly as entertaining.

¡Prepárese para tener su sangre congelada por esta vista previa con marca de agua!

K: Kibakichi (2004)

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kibakichi_bakkoyokaiden_2004For those of you keeping score (and if you are, good God, don’t you have anything better to do?), this position was supposed to be filled with Kung Fu Halloween, but it failed to make good with the Halloween connection. K is one of those difficult letters, so while flailing about, I found Kibakichi, and thought, “Oh, cool! Samurai werewolf!”

Wellllllllll, not quite. The character we’re introduced to carries the swords, and as we find in the prologue, when he takes on five bandits, he’s quite good with them, and on top of that, has fangs. His outfit, including his hat, is made of animal pelts. So he may not be in that social class, but yeah, he’s pretty definitely a werewolf, eh? (This was apparently released in America as Werewolf Warrior, which is at least truthful, but screw that – I needed the K)

What the well-dressed lycanthrope is wearing this year.

What the well-dressed lycanthrope is wearing this year.

Kibakichi (Ryûji Harada) comes upon an isolated village that welcomes him, and it turns out that the inhabitants of this village are all Yokai monsters. We’ve been informed that in the early part of the century mankind had declared war on and largely eradicated the Yokai because humans are assholes. These particular Yokai are allowed to exist because of a deal made with the local Yamayi Clan, in that criminals and other malcontents are channeled into the village, where they think they’ve found safe harbor in the local gambling den/brothel but instead find themselves on the menu. This increases the Yamayi prestige and power for cleaning up society, and in return the Yokai are promised their own land on a nearby mountain to exist peacefully. Since Kibakichi apparently got his own village of lycanthropes destroyed by trusting humans, he advises against this deal.

kibakichi8The village leader doesn’t agree with him, and inevitably the Yamayi have the riches to invest in something to replace the Yokai’s power in their land – a gatling gun and other firearms imported from the West. Honestly, the Yamayi were obviously villains from the get-go, because all their kimonos are made of black leather. They move through the village, shooting everything in sight, eventually triggering The Change in Kibakichi, and it turns out a werewolf is a much better fighter than your average Yokai.

Where did you go? We NEEDED you!

Where did you go? We NEEDED you!

Once the characters are all in place in Kibakichi, the movie becomes a waiting game for the ultimate confrontation we all know is coming, and it’s time that is not always used fruitfully. There is a bit of character development so the final massacre has some impact, but it seems achingly slow in developing. A bit of excitement is provided when another survivor from Werewolf town shows up – and she’s determined to kill Kibakichi for what she feels was his betrayal – but it is a brief interlude, never alluded to again. We can only assume she crops up in the inevitable sequel. At least the one human in the village – an orphan adopted as a baby years before – does not have a forced romantic interlude with our werewolf hero.

kibakichi-werewolfThe werewolf transformation is pretty well-done, but then we see far too much of Harada in his full body suit, which gets compounded when it is discovered that one of the Yokai is a turncoat, and he monsters out – and then there is a full-fledged sentai-style fight in a village with lots of balsa wood walls.

There are flaws, but it’s reasonably fun movie, especially if you don’t mind a large expanse of somewhat languid semi-weirdness between the opening and closing fight scenes.

This looks like it was cam-ed off somebody’s TV, but it should give you an idea if you want to check out the full movie. And oh yeah, massive spoiler alerts and all:

Buy Kibakichi on Amazon