Humans & Mushrooms MERGE in MATANGO!
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!
VHS Verdict: 1993’s STEPMONSTER Makes Mom a Mutant!!
I’m always excited to use what little power I have on U-Dork to hype up a forgotten gem of movie that warrants a fancy blu ray release and 1993’s Stepmonster is just that kind of flick. With a solid cast featuring Alan Thicke, Ami Dolenz and Corey Feldman (among others) we get a sweet little early 90s, PG-13, cheezed out creature feature! Right up my alley..
Produced by Fred Olen Ray and Roger Corman you might already have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. It’s a bit of a coming of age horror flick mixed with monsters and suburban comedy. Pre-teen kid Todd’s mother goes mysteriously missing on a family camping trip and a few months later his Dad (Alan Thicke of COURSE) has strangely got a new mysterious lady movin’ in who’s soon to be Todd’s new mom. Ummm…TOO soon Alan!
To make matters worse dead bodies start turning up in suburbia and Todd begins to suspect that his mother is some sort of vicious shapeshifting mutant monster that made her way from the forest on their camping trip into their freakin’ family home. Of course no one believes him and he spends his time trying to convince his crush Amy Dolenz & her stoner rocker boyfriend (played by Corey Feldman) of the danger the neighborhood is in.
That’s the one part of this movie that could have been greatly improved-it needed WAY more Corey! He comes across here like his Frog Brother persona or better yet like his character from The Burbs. This might as well exist in the same universe as that movie and that’s more than just fine with me. Oh yeah young Todd is also a perv!
There’s a ton of fun to be had here in this little creepy adventure that feels more like it belongs in the eighties than the nineties to be honest. Some of the humor as well feels a notch or 2 above it’s PG-13 rating, which I guess can be expected judging by the producers sassy reputations. That being said, it’s really got that Amblin “kids in danger” vibe that I love so much, along with the cool creature and special effects that go along with movies of that genre so well. The creature design is also pretty impressive for such a low budget affair and feature some of that classic early nineties face morphing that maybe has an aged so well?
Luckily Stepmonster has its heart mostly in all the right places and pretty much hits all the right beats making it a great double feature aside movies like ‘The Goonies’ or ‘The Gate’. It also wastes no time, with its lean 86 minute run time, it’s a great party movie that nearly anyone can enjoy, who knows maybe there’s an “R rated cut” of the movie somewhere, I’d love to see the movie get even darker. Nonetheless this is a pretty sweet little family horror flick that’s tailer made for fans of the eighties and early nineties. Stepmonster def deserves a fancy blu ray release with a ton of extras!