‘Hiruko The Goblin’ from 1990 has got to be one of the best horror movies from Japan I’ve ever seen. It hits all the right beats for me in what I personally love from the late 80’s early 90’s genre movies. Directed by the iconic Shinya Tsukamoto, most well known for his epic, bizarre cyber punk horror oddity ‘Tetsuo: the Iron Man’ he delivers another slam dunk here a couple years after with this. However, this particular movie of his has gotten a lot of criticism for being so totally different from ‘Tetsuo’. Haruko spends more time on character development, humor and over the top monsters, as well as a heavy dose of heart. For me this is a much better formula than the grimy bleak mood of most of this directors other work.
This plays out way more like ‘Evil Dead 2’ meets ‘The Ghostbusters’ then his cyberpunk Cronenbergian/ David Lynch tinged outings. The story is simple yet truly bizarre: a school has literally been built on a gate to Hell behind which hordes of demons await the moment they will be freed to wreak havoc on the physical plane. Hiruko is a powerful and cunning creature sent to Earth on a reconnaissance mission, he decapitates humans in order to assemble their heads on demonic spider like bodies and command them to do his wicked deeds. Eventually this gory predicament falls into the lap of an archaeology professor, who’s dramn to the abandoned school during summer time to investigate the supernatural shenanigans and stop this demonic onslaught.
One of my favorite aspects of this movie are the two protagonists a teenage high school student and his odd demon-lore obsessed archeologist uncle. When the boy’s father goes missing while exploring the caverns beneath the school, his eccentric uncle arrives on the scene to help him search the school armed with some nifty demon busting equiptment. From here it leads them on an epic surreal journey facing off with creatures in the creepy empty corridors of the school. It also explores family dynamics, all with a slightly light-hearted comedic edge to it amidst the mayhem.
The other big star of the show here is most definitely the special-effects showcased, if you’re a fan of 80s monster movies this one will definitely be right up your alley Hiruko and his minions are a true sight to behold and the director uses almost every 80’s style effect in the book to bring them to life. From animatronics to stop motion animation, it’s all here and the creepy aesthetics and setting of the film are the perfect place for this all to unfold. Also the movie’s got a relatively lean run time I’d less than 90 minutes, so it’s not something that’s going to put you to sleep. A true visual treat as well, with a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s ambitious horror film from what I consider the tail end of the golden age of the genre that more audiences in the U.S.A need to view. A cross between Ghostbusters, Evil Dead II, Poltergeist & The Thing done by way of Japanese brilliance. Also a perfect movie for this Halloween season that you might not have seen before! Physical copies of this can be pricey and hard to track down but I’m certain it must be streaming somewhere?! This need a deluxe blu ray release badly!!