Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.
The Japanese are weird. This statement isn’t meant to disparage or insult any ethnic race. On the contrary, I believe their weirdness should praised and admired. Some of the most bizarre and unique stories come from Japan. Whether it’s anime, manga or film, they consistently push the boundaries in storytelling. Americans have to rewire their brains to think outside the box, while Japan has no concept of “box” thinking. If you can think, you can write it and there’s usually an audience for your ideas, no matter how crazy they are.
One of the oldest and weirdest aspects of their culture, is their treatment of the paranormal. One of the only things that every single culture has in common, is their belief in ghosts. Whether they’re malevolent spectres, terrifying poltergeists or spirits that just need to move on, tales of ghosts pop up in every culture. But Japan being Japan, they’re interpretation of otherworldly entities is predictably batshit insane.
There’s the “sickle weasels” who are fast moving ghosts that cut off your legs.
The Joro-Gumo, or spider woman, who entices you with a beautiful visage and then turns into a spider and eats you.
Gashadokuro is a giant skeleton made up of the bones of people who’ve died of starvation. He also eats you.
Aka Manto will ask you “Would you like red or blue paper?” while you’re taking a shit. Depending on your answer, you’re either getting drained of blood, your skin flayed off of your body or your dragged to hell.
And the Kappa who abducts naughty children like the Krampus but instead of whapping the children with a switch, he sucks their souls out of their assholes.
Japanese ghosts are crazy.
Which brings me to The Yokai Monster Trilogy. Made in the the late 60’s, the series consists of One Hundred Monsters, Spook Warfare, and concluding with Along with Ghosts. While the series isn’t canonically connected by story or character, they are, however, connected thematically. The set up for all three films is the same: some villains mess with a village (which always involves the destruction of a shrine or the lack of respect of a custom), the people try and fight back and then the last 15 minutes is all crazy ass ghost action.
Imagine any wandering samurai film, but substitute the samurai with a group of ghosts and the plots are identical. But like the samurai films, you’re not watching a monster film for the plot. You’re watching it for the action and the Yokai Monster Series doesn’t disappoint.
Yes, there are long stretches of film where characters you don’t care about are talking to other characters you don’t care about, about shit you couldn’t care less about but every ten minutes, there’s the money shot. It’s like watching one of those old “girls in prison” type films. Even the worst one is watchable because you know, if you just stick it out for five more minutes, you’re going to get a shower scene. But instead of hot, naked women, you’re getting crazy fucking ghosts. Which, in all honesty, is equally as good.
Based on my terrible description of what The Yokai Monster Trilogy actually is, you’d be forgiven to think that it’s a horror film series. Although there are shades of horror elements, the trilogy is a monster film series through and through. Again, you’re going to need use that imagination but imagine if Hammer films teamed up with H.R Pufnstuf creators Sid and Marty Kroft to create a monster film series and you’re not far off base.
If you were to weigh the watchability of these films based on a Pro/Con system it would come up: Cons– The acting is mediocre, the scripts are bare bones, the characters are forgettable, the score sounds like a temp score a porno rejected and the action is laughably bad.
The Pros– the monster effects are amazing. You would think the scales would definitely tip in favor of cons but take a gander at these weird ass monsters and you tell me.
If you suddenly have an itch only a crazy film can scratch, I highly recommend checking out the pure lunacy that is The Yokai Monster Trilogy. The third is the best one, where the ghosts team up to fight a 1000 year old vampire. It’s glorious.