Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
      ( 12/04/2007 08:24:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"SOMETHING ABNORMAL IS HAPPENING IN THE ATMOSPHERE." Caught a real oddity off this year's TCM's Halloween horror bloc, the Japanese sci-fi horror flick, Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell. Though I knew nothing of the movie, the title was just outlandish enough to get me watching it over the weekend. I'm happy to've been suckered into the viewing experience.

A late sixties feature that's been championed by Quentin Tarantino (who included a shot in homage to it in Kill Bill I), Goke concerns a group of plane crash survivors who are menaced by an alien vampire that has taken over one of the passengers. The process through which the hijacked earthling gets transmogrified by the globular extraterrestrial would be really icky if the movie's fx were in any way believable - the victim's forehead splits apart and the slimy alien enters the body through the opening - but they prove just as cheesy as your sixties era rubber suit rampage movie.

Effects aside, the film has a definite sixties vibe to it. Weird little snippets of social commentary are layered onto the storyline (we're told, for instance, that "our senseless wars have given extraterrestrials an irresistible opportunity to invade us"), complete with red-tinted newsreel footage. Within our cabin of caricaturized would-be victims is a philandeering politician, an arms merchant, a bomb-toting nihilist, a blond American widow (Kathy Horan, who also had a role in The Green Slime) whose husband died in 'Nam, a professional assassin who looks like a Japanese Tony Curtis, plus a story convenient "researcher in space biology," who provides a tinge of pseudo-science to the proceedings. It doesn't take long for this diverse crew to begin bickering among themselves, which, of course, makes it easier for our blood-sucking title alien, Gokemidoro, to feast.

Even with that telltale gaping forehead, our possessed human doesn't behave like your typical movie vampire. He strolls about in daylight and, when he attacks his victims' necks, it looks more like he's giving 'em a hickey than biting into their flesh. The monster's first death at the hands of the movie's somewhat heroic pilot is profoundly unconvincing, but there are plenty of nifty visual images in the picture. I'm especially enamored of the pre-crash sequences: the blood-red sky through which the doomed plane is flying, the unsettling images of suicidal seagulls smashing into bloody smears on the cabin windows. Some day, a savvy filmmaker will redo this baby (not as if the movie's anti-war subtext has become outdated). And if they don't give into the impulse to needlessly tart it all up with CGI, the results should be something to see.

And, yes, the "body snatcher from hell" part of the American title is totally irrelevant.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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