Posted: 01/22/2004


Hiruko: The Goblin


by Alexander Rojas

Strange, mystical pseudo-horror from Tetsuo’s Shinya Tsukamoto.

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Mostly known for his cyber-action-sci-fi- gore-art films such as Tokyo Fist and both Tetsuo films, Shinya Tsukamoto has been one of the more consistently exciting and imaginative Japanese filmmakers since the ’90s. His cult status has made him a favorite amongst other Japanese filmmakers, one of which, the prolific Takashi Miike, shot behind the scenes footage on the set of Tsukamoto’s Gemini. In between the Tetsuo films, Tuskamoto made an unexpected and stylistically different film from his regular slate called Hiruko: The Goblin.

In Hiruko, an archaeologist, Hieda, haunted by the accidental death of his wife, is asked by his brother-in-law, Professor Yube, to explore an ancient area he discovered set near a local school in a small village area. Upon his arrival Hieda’s nephew, Masao, along with two other friends spend their summer day vacation hanging out near their school. However, on this day, they come to discover that a goblin has escaped from its ancient lair and Hieda, armed with his homemade weapons and goblin detector along with Masao are left to fight off the giant spider-like goblin before it releases its army of hideous goblins amongst the rest of the world.

The film is quite a drastic change from Tsukamoto’s mostly known festival films. Whereas Tokyo Fist and Tetsuo were received with critical acclaim and praised for their artistic merits, Hiruko is a fun popcorn movie that blends horror and comedy with the potential to entertain a mainstream audience. This mix of an ugly, destructive spider-like goblin with the expressive faces of its victims are both gross and fun. Tsukamoto uses stop motion, fast motion P.O.V, and hidden shadows to show and place the goblin in every threatening position possible. The most memorable scene is the face of one of the characters sticking out of a pond singing as spider-like legs emerge around it and carry off the attached face with it. Both leading characters are themselves over the top and dramatic in their responses to the goblin and the headless bodies around them. Their clumsiness and nervousness adds to the humor in an otherwise mostly violent film.

Anyone expecting a film along the visual chaos of Tetsuo or the slow pace of Gemini will be surprised to see in Hikuro: The Goblin a director with a wider commercial range of style than expected.

Alexander Rojas reviews any kind of film, even your parents’ private Super-8 bedroom home movies.

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