Hidden Horror- “Mantango: Attack of the Mushroom People”

Matango_1963_posterWhen it comes to legendary Japanese movie company Toho your mind instantly goes to Godzilla, however Toho made several other great films that are often overlooked. “Mantango Attack of the Mushroom People” is the perfect example, gaining a reputation and became a cult classic, though nowhere as popular as the Godzilla franchise.

The film opens on a guy going to a mental hospital to see a psychiatrist who may be crazy, but his story is even crazier. The psychiatrist tells the man what happened to him and it plays out on screen. Some people aboard a yacht run into a bad storm. The storm ends eventually and the people aboard it venture onto an island that seems to have no inhabitants. Their ship is damaged from the storm so they have no choice but to look on the island to search for some food. They discover a huge forest full of large mushrooms. They decide not to eat them as they may be poisonous, although they have no other source of food. They also find that no animals are on the island at all either. And to make matters worse they find the remains of another ship that appears to have crashed there. Eventually the people aboard the ship give into starvation and begin eating the mushrooms and the results are hideous…

Despite the weird title and concept this film is a great flick. Even if the plot sounds kind if campy, it is not as if this film isn’t a dark movie with a serious tone. It is also directed by legendary Toho monster/ Godzilla director Ishiro Honda and it features special effects by Eiji Tsubraya, who was behind all the visual effects of Toho’s classic films from the mid ’50s to late ’60s.

This film is an adaption of a story called “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hogdson. The story has been adapted a few times and this film is by far the best adaption of it. This film gets pretty tense at some moments as the characters begin to get paranoid and angry at each other, and they eventually break down as the film progresses and give into the temptation of the mushrooms.

Lately this film has became hard to find at a reasonable price, but if you do buy this film it is worth the price. It is not very often a film can take a campy/cheesy sounding subject matter like mushroom people and make it a dark and serious film. And this film is just a pretty unique and cool movie. If you want an outside of the box horror film this is for you, or if you love Toho or Godzilla films you will defines love this film.

-Dakota Bailey

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HIDDEN HORROR – Matango Attack of the Mushroom People

matango When it comes to the legendary Japanese movie company Toho Godzilla instantly comes to mind. However Toho made several other great films that are overshadowed by their Godzilla films. And “Mantango Attack of the Mushroom People” is the perfect example that statement. The film has gained a reputation and became a cult classic but it’s not famous as Toho’s Godzilla films therefor making it a hidden horror.

The film opens up with a guy going to a mental hospital to see a psychiatrist who is crazy, and his story is even crazier. The psychiatrist tells the man what happened to him and it plays out on screen. Some people aboard a yacht run into a bad storm. The storm ends eventually and the people aboard it venture onto an island that seems to have no inhabitants. Their ship is damaged from the storm so they have no choice but to look on the island to search for some food. They discover a huge forest full of large mushrooms . They decide not to eat them as they may be poisonous, although they have no other source of food. They also find that no animals are on the island at all either. And to make matters worse they find the remains of another ship that appears to have crashed there. Eventually the people aboard the ship give into starvation and begin eating the mushrooms and the results are hideous…

Despite the weird title and concept this film has it’s a great flick. Even if the plot sounds kind if campy, it is not as this film is a dark movie with a serious tone. It is also directed by legendary Toho monster/ Godzilla director Ishiro Honda. And it features special effects by Eiji Tsubraya who was behind all the visual effects of all Toho’s classic films from the mid ’50s to late ’60s.

This film is an adaption of a story called “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hogdson. The story has been adapted a few times and this film is by far the best adaption of it. This film gets pretty tense at some moments as the characters begin to get paranoid and angry at each other, and they eventually break down as the film progresses and give into the temptation of the mushrooms.

Lately this film has became hard to find at a reasonable price. But if you do buy this film it is worth the price because it’s a good film. It is not very often a film can take a campy/cheesy sounding subject matter like mushroom people and make it a dark and serious film. This movie is also the perfect summer time Toho/Japanese horror film. With the island and ocean environment this movie has, it screams summer time horror.If you want an outside of the box horror film this is for you, or if you love Toho or Godzilla films you are sure to love this one.
-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR- Half Human (Plus a Bonus)

Jujin_Yuki_Otoko_posterWhen people think of Toho films or Japanese monster films Godzilla instantly comes to mind. However, people seem to forget that Toho has made more then just Godzilla films. Toho’s produced several other monster films, including the 1955 film Half Human. You could say that this is a cousin film to the Godzilla franchise since it is from Toho, was directed by Ishiro Honda, and featured special effects by Eiji tsubraya. These two were responsible for many of classic kaiju films of the ‘50s and ‘60s, however out of all of Toho’s other monster films, this one is the most overlooked. In 1958 it was released in America in a dubbed and Americanized version, featuring added scenes starring John Carradine. The Japanese version of the film has not been released in America so I will obviously be taking a look at the American version.

The film tells the story of an anthropologist (John Carradine) and is presented in a series of flashbacks as he tells a couple of his colleagues about three skiers in the Alps that have an encounter with the Abominable Snowman. The Abominable Snowman has an offspring as well, but one man tries to capture it, accidentally shooting and killing it. The father becomes enraged at the death of his offspring and goes on a rampage, destroying everything in its path.

Half Human has some elements that make it similar to King Kong and even Cannibal Holocaust. This film is the epitome of hidden horror. Finding a copy of it on VHS or DVD is extremely difficult. I actually own a copy of it and I can tell you that if you do manage get your hands on it you will not be disappointed. It’s a great movie. The American version of the film is probably all you will be able to find, and unfortunately the American version cuts a lot of the Japanese footage out. The Japanese version can’t be found, but some say that the original unadulterated film exists somewhere out there. This is a hard to find horror and thus a totally underrated film that will probably never have its place in horror cinema history but if you can find it you will not be disappointed.

BONUS MUSIC REVIEW- “Slayer: Undisputed Attitude”

72_logoWhen it comes to legendary heavy metal band Slayer classic albums like “Reign in Blood,” “Hell Awaits,” or “Seasons in the Abyss” come to mind. However people forget that Slayer actually did a cover album, one that is extremely underrated to say the least. In 1996 Slayer recorded “Undisputed Attitude,” a follow up to their 1994 album “Divine Intervention,” deciding to do a cover album. At first they were going to cover Judas Priest and other classic bands, but instead decided to cover punk songs instead. Slayer’s a band that was born of heavy metal and punk and they were one of the first bands to combine the speed of punk music with heavy metal.

“Undisputed Attitude” features Slayer covering bands like Minor Threat, D.R.I. and more. They also take the Stooges song “I Want to be Your Dog,” make it heavy, add vulgarity to the lyrics and change the title to “I Want to be Your God” The highlight of the album, however, is the only original Slayer song on the album known as “Gemini.” It is a powerful song that features incredible drum work and musicianship, as well as mood and lyrics that will appeal to any horror movie fan. While not every Slayer album can be a “Reign in Blood” or “Hell Awaits” you can still bet that you are going to get real heavy metal and great musicianship with each of their releases. As long as Slayer is around, you can also bet that heavy metal will be alive. So give “Undisputed Attitude” a shot, it’s a fun listen and entertaining to say the least.

-Dakota Bailey

UNDERRATED SEQUELS – Godzilla VS Gigan

Godzilla_vs_Gigan_1972By the late 1960’s the Godzilla film series had been firmly established as a venture into children’s entertainment. After entries such as “Godzilla vs The Smog Monster” and the all too hard to forget, “All Monsters Attack”, these films had become means of teaching kids life lessons in the best way possible: By mixing it up with monsters punching each other in the face. However 1972 happened to be when that all changed. Frequently considered one of the most hated films in the classic Godzilla franchise, Jun Fukuda’s Godzilla vs Gigan is a feature that deserves a second chance, as a secondary interpretation for its plot has been easily missed by many.

The film’s story centers around a new Kaiju themed amusement park, aptly named Children’s Land (I know… Wow…). After Gengo, a manga artist, is contracted to help create concept art for the gigantic recreation center, he discovers a strange tape deck inside the park’s HQ, which is brilliantly disguised as a giant Godzilla tower. Once played, he unknowingly contacts the monsters Godzilla and Anguirus. After discovering that the whole theme park, as well as its creepy curators, are up to no good, the film’s script goes about its usual “reveal the villains as some kind of alien hybrid” trope. The extraterrestrial Disney knock-offs then summon two evil space Kaiju: New comer Gigan, and returning favorite King Ghidorah. Of course, Godzilla and Anguirus arrive to level out the playing field.

The climactic fight scene in a Godzilla movie is always the one aspect that will make or break it. Surprisingly enough, the fight scene in this movie usually considered a draw-back. Why is this surprising? Because it is one of the longest and, otherwise, most satisfying Kaiju fights in the original Godzilla series. Though it uses its fare share of lazy stock footage to add to its length (This time from Ghidorah, The Three-headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters), the film does so to provide us with the same sensation we felt while watching the Avengers partially help destroy New York City. I didn’t complain about evening out the fight/dialogue ratio there and I definitely won’t do so here either. Although the film can be criticized for many things, one of the main points of the film’s existence is constantly overlooked. Near the end of the film, our human protagonists, along with help from Big Green, destroy the theme park’s giant center piece: the Godzilla tower. Not only does this add to the wholesome level of destruction, but it symbolizes something from behind the scenes at the TOHO offices.

Since 1964’s Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, the series had began taking a turn towards the child market. The films were teaching us about pollution, friendship, bullying and the family system. They were no longer allegories for the atomic age nor were they metaphors on nature’s fury. They were basically Sesame Street episodes as if produced by Roger Corman. Godzilla vs Gigan was the turning point for this. By watching with open eyes, you’ll realize the slightly darker tone this entry takes. Godzilla actual gushes blood a few times throughout the film which is something he’s never done before and that would only get more graphic in further sequels. The film also had no blatant moral to speak of. And how do we figure this? By examining Godzilla destroying the infamous Godzilla tower near the end of the film in a children’s park making fun of the very idea of Godzilla culture. In doing this, Jun Fukuda was symbolically killing off the “Godzilla is only for kids” mindset that Ishiru Honda had established before him. Although the following Godzilla vs Megalon would prove to be heavy on kid friendly viewing, the later Mechagodzilla films would take note from Gigan, eventually progressing into the very dark “versus series,” beginning with Godzilla Returns in 1984. With all that said, I’ll be leaving this review on a question. Was this review supposed to convince you that Godzilla vs Gigan is a good movie? No. It was supposed to convince you that it’s an important movie. That being said, feel free to hate it, but you better damn well respect it. After all, the death of the villains in this film directly inspired the ending of Team America: World Police. Now that’s how you make an obscure reference!

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

HIDDEN HORROR-War of the Gargantuas

WAR OF THE GARGANTUASAt first glance “War of the Gargantuas” from 1966 may seem like a “Godzilla” knock-off. That could not be farther from the truth. Since they both come from the same company, Toho, you could call “War of the Gargantuas” a cousin film to “Godzilla.” Much like the early Godzilla films “War of the Gargantuas” is a fun, entertaining monster movie and, to get personal, it helped solidify me as a horror fan at an early age.  

It’s a dark, stormy night and a ship is stranded in the ocean, caught in a storm and under attack from a giant octopus. When the giant octopus lets go of the ship, the captain looks out the window and notices an ugly, green humanoid creature fighting the octopus. After it defeats the octopus the humanoid creature destroys the boat and devours the captain and his crew. Afterwards, a scientist and his assistant are being question by the police. They had a similar humanoid creature they have been studying since it was an infant, and the authorities wonder if it has grown up and is responsible for the killings. It turns out there are two creatures: the one studied by the scientists is brown, resides in the mountains and is peaceful; while the one responsible for the attacks is green, lives in the ocean and is evil.

When the green monster comes to land to feast he is nearly killed by the military. However he is saved by the brown creature. It turns out the green creature is an offspring of the brown one. Their friendship doesn’t last long though as they get into a a fight and then proceed to battle and destroy Tokyo.

You know this film is going to be a good one when you take a look at the credits. Here you have Inishiro Honda as director, Elji Tsubraya as the special effects director, Tomoyuki Tanaka as producer and Akira Ifukube as composer. This is the team that created the original “Godzilla” film, “Mothra” “Rodan” and many other classic Kaiju films. If you are looking for the cream of the crop of Kaiju films, you cannot go wrong with anything that has the involvement of these guys.

For its time the special effects were quite impressive. Yes it is miniature cities and men in monster costumes but believe me, these effects are still pretty good. I imagine some people may find these effects laughable and that is shame they will not be able to appreciate this film because of it.

If you are a fan of kaiju films or just want something entertaining I highly recommend checking out “War of the Gargantuas.” As I said early it help turned me into a horror fan and I am sure other horror fans can say the same. Mainstream filmmakers such as Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino have cited this film as an influence. I am so much a fan of this film that I have both the 90’s Japanese and American VHS releases.

Bonus Review: Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven

On March 26th legendary heavy metal band Pantera’s album ”Far Beyond Driven” is going to be re-released for its 20th anniversary. In my opinion, and that of other metal fans, it is one of the best metal albums of all time, and I mean real heavy metal not the fake metal like Metallica’s ”Black album.” What’s interesting about ”Far Beyond Driven” is that at the time they were creating this album, Nirvana was at their height in popularity and grunge music was the thing that was in style. Pantera basically said fuck that and they made one of the most extreme heavy metal albums of all time. ”Far Beyond Driven” debuted at number one on the Billboard top 200 charts! That is something that does not happen very often with a heavy metal album. Also, when this album came out, the critics had been saying that heavy metal had died. That is why Metallica changed their look and style with ”Load”. On the other hand Pantera and Slayer were probably the top bands that pushed ahead and refused to give into the fads of the time or change their style and they still managed to be mainstream.

”Far Beyond Driven” is a very special album. Just listen to some of the tracks and you will know what I man. This album has ”Strength Beyond Strength”, ”Becoming” ”5 Minutes Alone” ”I’m Broken”, ”Use My Third Arm” and several more tracks that are examples of what real metal is.

What has always made Pantera so unique is that they were the biggest underground band to ever rising to fame from touring and a fan base instead of radio and television. And who can forget Pantera’s guitarist Dimebag Darrel who was as good, if not a better guitar play than Eddie Van Halen? It’s a shame what happened. Pantera, along with Slayer, Morbid Angel and other bands of this era were the extreme American heavy metal bands of the era making heavy music at a time when metal was called dead. And if you are new to extreme metal or want to get into extreme heavy metal this is a great place to start. Check this album out.

-Dakota Bailey