Hiruko the Goblin
hiruko the goblin | shin'ya tsukamoto | kenji sawada | masaki kudou | hiedo murota | monster | monsters | creature | creatures | based on | manga | comedy | fantasy | japan | daijiro morohoshi | naoto takenaka | megumi ueno | bang-ho cho | ken mitsuishi | imari tsuji
Film: Hiruko the Goblin
Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto
Writer: Shin’ya Tsukamoto
Starring: Kenji Sawada, Masaki Kudou and Hideo Murota
This was a film I had never heard of until the list for a podcast best the 1990’s came out. I had some trouble finding this, but did procure a copy to check out. I did look into this while trying to find a way to see it and learned it is based off a manga, which from my understanding is an adult comic book much like a graphic novel. The synopsis is that when a Gate of Hell is opened, Hiruko a goblin, comes through to attempt to fully open it. An archaeology professor and a haunted student must stop it before it is too late.
We start this off being introduced to Hieda Reijirou (Kenji Sawada). Through dialogue he used to be a great archaeologist, but decided to give it up for the similar work he does now. The guy telling the story kind of mocks him to those that are listening. We then see a young woman riding her bike before we shift over to Takashi Yabe (Naoto Takenaka). He is in a cave and a woman joins him. He tells her to go back as it is dangerous, but she tags along. They uncover something that picks them up and throws them back.
The film then shifts to Masao Yabe (Masaki Kudou) and his two friends. School is closed for the summer, but he is up there looking for someone. Through a window he sees his crush, Tsukishima Reiko (Megumi Ueno) as someone approaches her. Masao then has a reaction and his back is smoking. There is something not quite right at this school and Watanabe (Hideo Murota) chases the boys off.
A letter comes for Hieda asking for his help with a discovery. He reluctantly agrees to go to the school, but before he leaves he has a freak over a cockroach and we see he has insect spray to kill it. He comes to the school where Masao and his friends are at. When he arrives, there’s something not quite right going on here. We get a POV of something that is lower to the ground and the entity goes after Masao. Hieda saves him from it. The student thinks that it is Watanabe trying to scare them, but Hieda knows that it is Hiruko a dangerous goblin. Masao is hiding a secret that get worse with every death around him. His crush for Reiko is tested as well when we see what she’s become. Can whatever is happening here be stopped before it is too late?
Now for this review, I wanted to go a bit vague here to avoid spoiling things. This film doesn’t have the deepest story, but I definitely think that it is one that you should experience it. That is actually a great way to describe the events that happen. Something that really struck me too was that I could tell this was coming from a manga as it feels like a horrific comic book movie. I think that really works for what we get, as a lot of it is a bit over the top. It actually makes me want to seek the manga as well, not going to lie.
What I really want to cover next about the film is the villain. We never actually see what it looks like. We do get to see it having the head of Reiko on it. If you’ve seen one of the cases for this, you can see that it makes a spider-like creature. I’m not sure if this is legitimately lore in Japan, or just something that was made up for the manga. There is one later in the film though that is even scarier looking. I just like the idea that there is this forbidden place that if opened, could release all of these creatures on the world. When you get to see inside, it was pretty creepy to be honest.
To shift back a minute to the comic book feel of the film, I do think that it creates some issues for me as well. The comedy doesn’t really work, but I get what they’re going for. I do think that it lightens the tension a bit and takes away from it, instead of just being there to enhance it. With that said, I was completely entertained from start to finish and it does build tension. There’s also some really good writing here as we are shown so many images that come into play later. The ending gets a little bit cheesy with some of the effects that are shown.
As to the acting of the film, I think it is actually pretty solid. I like that this film actually has the roles reversed. Sawada believes in these creatures, but only because of facts. He has learned the legends and knows that there is something inside of this stone chamber. Him believing actually saves those around him. Kudou is interesting the more we learn about his back-story. The physical representation of what happens to him when those die around him had me wanting to know more. I also really like how he plays into the ending. Murota is kind of funny and I like his back-story as well. He played this role very stoic and somewhat angry, but it fit very well. I also thought Ueno does a solid job, speaking her as a normal character isn’t really used much and a lot of it done after she’s been taken over. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed in my opinion.
Something I was a fan of with this film was the effects. There are definitely some wild ones here. We get some blood that looks a bit bright, but I don’t really have any issues there. I almost wished the film would have gone a step farther with that. The effects for the spider head creatures I was a big fan of to be honest. They use stop motion to bring some of it to life and it works. The usual Japanese visions of ghosts are used here with the overly white face. Overall the effects are done practically and I think it really works out well. It is also shot very well in my opinion.
As for the soundtrack of the film, it didn’t really stand out to me for the most part. There were just a couple of moments where I believe Ueno is singing. It is kind of haunting for the scenes it is used in and how cheery the song sounds. It is pretty effective to be honest. Other than that, the rest of the score fit for what was needed with the scenes and it never took me out of it.
Now with that said, this is definitely a film that I had a lot of fun with and would probably check out again. I wouldn’t be surprised if with a second viewing my rating even came up on it. I think it has an interesting story and concept, but I think some of the humor does take away some of the tension. It does build to a solid conclusion regardless. I think the acting is good and the effects don’t always look great, but for what they were working with are fine. The soundtrack definitely fit with the cheery songs making the some scenes even more unnerving and makes it even more atmospheric. I will warn you this is from Japan, so I had to watch with subtitles on. Not the greatest film out there, but I definitely enjoyed my ride with it.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10