Written by AJ Taysom
Japanese monster movies from the 1960s have traditionally been a difficult watch for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Godzilla as much as the next guy: two dudes in monster suits beating the shit out of each other and destroying a mini model of Tokyo is awesome. But it can get kind of repetitive after a while. When the genre is at its best, I’m totally hooked. At its worst, I find myself drifting off sometimes (gasp!) skipping around until I can find a battle scene. This might have something to do with my horrible attention span, and also something to do with the fact that streaming video services can sometimes be a total curse. “20 Godzilla movies? Why should I watch just one? I’ll watch the first ten minutes of all of them!”
Then I discovered Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell and my perspective on the J-Horror monster movie totally changed.
Goke starts us off on a plane, but doesn’t keep us there for long. We are introduced to a series of colorful archetypes: the politician, the captain, the flight attendant, the psychiatrist, the devious man in all white, ect ect. After a sort of random series of pretty drastic events (the devious man in white fires a gun at someone, a bomb threat is called in, acid is spilled, a UFO strikes the wing of the plane) the plane finally crashes. It’s sort of confusing exactly how the plane crashes, or why all of those intense things happen only for the plane to then be randomly struck by a UFO. I guess the movie really wants the plane to crash, and it does a bunch of shit to make sure that happens. More than one way to skin a cat, I guess? Something like that.
Once our survivors are effectively stranded, the body snatching begins. The pilot of the UFO reveals itself to the devious man in white and things start to go down in a fashion pretty similar to The Thing. I won’t give away much more of the plot because I want you to experience this madness for yourself.
Goke, is spectacular. Any movie that has the opening lines “The sky is red, like a sea of blood” Clearly knows what it is about and clearly knows where it wants to go. While character development really isn’t present, the movie contains lots of pretty catchy one liners and pulp dialogue along with timely and biting political commentary. It’s sort of like Japan does Sam Fuller. The witty dialogue and absurdity is a constant throughout the entire flick; guns are fired, aliens are evaded, and heads split open. This one’s a ride, folks.
What I dug the most about Goke is the films monster, the titular Body Snatcher. It’s not an animatronic dinosaur. It’s not a human in a dinosaur suit. It’s not a dinosaur in a human suit (thank God.) I won’t say what exactly it is, but I will say this: it’s subtle. It’s small. It’s smart. It’s a timely answer to the giant dinosaur craze coming out of Japan in the 60s. It thinks a little differently and is absolutely rewarding because of that.
Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell is a pulpy treat that serves as both a look into Japan’s fascinating horror history (for the film history nerds) and a really badass time for anyone else just looking for a great, lesser known monster movie. It’s sharp, witty, and terrifying with some bizarre and beautiful special effects. I guess I don’t have much more to say about this one because, by and large, it totally speaks for itself. Get ahold of this one as soon as you can.