Hiruko The Goblin

cast: Kenji Sawada, Masaki Kudo, Tomah Sano, Yasuaki Tsukahara, and Daisuke Yamashita

writer and director: Shinya Tsukamoto

89 minutes (15) 1990 widescreen ratio 16:9
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail
[released 23 August]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter

Remember that hilariously gross moment in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) where a dead man’s head falls off, hides away under a table, and then sprouts spidery legs so it can scuttle out the doorway? Well, this genuinely stylish horror comedy by the director of cult cyberpunk movie Tetsuo, has lots of dodgy but fun animation effects where the decapitated heads of victims bounce around and climb up walls on crab-like legs! Based on the book by Dajiro Moroboshi, Hiruko The Goblin (aka: Yokai Hanta – Hiruko) is a bloody farce of oddball heroes facing down weird demons that could be described as Doctor Who meets the Evil Dead.

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It opens with pleasant scenes of Japanese countryside, where cute teenager Reiko (Megumi Ueno) rides her bicycle through rolling green pastures. At the empty school, where a gang of feckless boys on summer break are hanging out and looking for mischief, something evil is stirring at the reopened secret burial mound and it has already turned the caretaker into a nearly homicidal lunatic. Rogue archaeologist Hieda (Kenji Sawada), whose outlandish techniques and madcap adventures make the career of a certain Dr Jones seem like that of a sombre and dreary bookworm, is called upon to investigate strange discoveries and occult phenomena. Love-struck schoolboy Maseo (Masaki Kudou) joins a search for the missing Reiko, despite being afflicted with a number of blistery faces (yes, they are lost souls of the newly deceased) growing on his back. As the subplots of unrequited love and doomed romance give way to delirious psychic visions, the film improves dramatically, and things get far more interesting when our heroes embark on a dangerous trip into the unknown, to prevent monstrous Hiruko leading a horde of goblin creatures out of their hellish prison. Delightfully wacky and frequently inventive, this is one of the best fantasy freak-shows I have seen in ages.
The Region 2 DVD from Artsmagic features a digitally enhanced anamorphic transfer, Dolby digital sound in Japanese with English subtitles, but reportedly (I am unable to confirm this because the review disc received was a pre-release copy of the film main feature, only) the disc extras are basic, including filmographies and biographies, a trailer, and a showreel of artwork.