Hey fungi enthusiasts! If you’re looking for something truly stange & spooky to check out this Halloween season (and I know you are) then look no further- It’s time to take a trip of the sea shores of Japan to an uncharted incredibly creepy deserted island in 1963’s psychotronic horror: Mantango! I’m going to admit I haven’t really explored a lot of 1960s horror especially from Japan. However I’m a huge sucker for “stranded on an island” movie concepts and this one looked like it hit all the right beats from the trailer I saw. Essentially it’s like a demented episode of Gilligan’s island and much of the movie actually does actually kinda feel just like it, in all the best ways.
Visionary director Ishiro Honda paints an incredibly atmospheric nightmare landscape on the open sea, with a band of tourists on a fancy yacht who find themselves in the midst of a violent sea storm. Tired and hungry they take refuge on on a mysterious exotic tropical island infested with strange colorful mushrooms. There’s something extremely unsettling yet whimsical about the whole endeavor as the crew struggles to get along and and also find food that’s safe to eat there.
The most of the characters here I found to be a bit on the bland side, but it really doesn’t matter much because the beautiful bizarre portrait on display here of the island itself ends up as the true star of the entire show. The quietness of the foggy remote island lends much to the impending dread in the thick air as soon our cast of characters find themselves with hungry bellies, drawn to consume the beautiful fungi. It’s like they’ve spent the week in the garden of Adam-and-Eve but instead of colorful fruits instead enticed by mind altering fungus!
Matango is somewhat of a slow burn, but it’s a really fun “trip” right from the get go. All of the set pieces from the on the ship and especially the island are truly a spectacle to behold. It really makes me miss real practical sets, as many of the movies now in the fantasy genre just resort to bad CGI green screen backdrops. Being made in 1963, everything has that special earthy but put together carefully by hand look to it of that era, looking like some high budget theme park attraction, blanketed in roaming fogs.
There’s also some some legitimately creepy visuals to behold, every bit of Matango’s landscape looks like at any moment could come alive and grab you. As the tourists become more restless and frustrated it’s clear something sinister has taken hold of their psyche. And while the movie secondary moniker is ‘Attack of the Mushroom People’ I would say that’s a bit of a stretch here. There’s really Not a helluva of a lot of “attacking” going on until maybe the movie’s final 10 minutes, but it’s definitely worth the wait once the mushroom people do arrive.
Even by today’s standards these creatures look quite incredible, feeling like something materilized from a strange fever dream. Matango has definitely peaked my interest in Japanese movies from this era, this is a cool little mind bending bit of eye candy that’s that is most definitely worth a watch this Halloween season if you’re in the mood for something truly unique! I got it on blu ray recently from Far East Flix!