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Hiruko The Goblin (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Hiruko The Goblin (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
    Cast: Kenji Sawada, Masaki Kudou, Hideo Murota, Naoto Takenaka, Megumi Ueno, Chika Asamoto
    Year: 1991
    Purchase From Amazon

    Hiruko The Goblin – Movie Review:

    Written, directed and produced by Shinya Tsukamoto shortly after his Tetsuo: The Iron Man became a hit at film festivals and midnight screenings worldwide, Hiruko The Goblin is yet another live action big screen adaptation of a story that originally appeared in Japan in Manga form.

    Hieda (Kenji Sawada) is an archeologist who has been ostracized by his peers for his theories that goblins have a lot more to do with the history of Japan than most people would like to believe. He's an odd man, with a penchant for inventing strange weapons, tools and gadgets of all shapes and sizes to help him with his studies, but he's a lonely man who still feels the pain of his wife's death a few years ago.

    When Hieda hears word of a strange group of killings that have taken place in a high school not too far from him, he can't help by head on over and investigate things for himself despite the presence of some goofy kids and a potentially psychotic janitor roaming the premises. It doesn't take Hieda long to meet one of the kids, a young man named Masao (Masaki Kuodo), and the two begin to work together to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Masao's got a few issues of his own that he has to deal with, however – every time someone dies in the school, their face appears as a burning mole on his back.

    Soon our dynamic duo work their way into the school one night and they're shocked to find it inhabited by the decapitated heads of the murder victims, all of whom have grown hairy spider legs and are busy running around causing a ruckus. Luckily for our two heroes the good doctor is prepared for such a catastrophe and they set out using his special equipment to eradicate the school, which lays on one of the gateways to Hell, of the obnoxious and dangerous little buggers.

    Tsukamoto's Hiruko is not without its merits but it lacks a lot of what made his other films so memorable, this is essentially a foray into the mainstream for the director (though still decidedly bizarre by mainstream standards). Gone is the noirish irony of Bullet Ballet, the brain bending cyber punk visuals of the two Tetsuo movies or the poetic violence of Tokyo Fist. Instead, we get some wacky little spider goblin head critters running around wreaking havoc. That's not to say that spider goblin head critters aren't cool, because they are. In fact, they're exceptionally cool and because of that they're the highlights of the film, but Tsukamoto doesn't really 'leave his mark' with this one the way that he has with his other films. This is simply a more commercial monster film made to entertain and there's nothing wrong with that even if it does swipe shamelessly from Raimi's frenetic camera work on The Evil Dead more than once.

    Performances are pretty good. Kenji Sawada makes for a quirky and likeable lead and he’s fun to watch here. Masaki Kuodo is also pretty good, they make for a fun team. The creature effects outshine the human characters in the film though, with the goblins skittering about in weird, eerie style and the practical effects work frequently impressing.

    Hiruko The Goblin – Blu-ray Review:

    Hiruko The Goblin arrives on Region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 26.2GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a 2k restoration of the original camera negative, picture quality is strong. There’s pretty much no print damage here at all, the image is pristine, and we get a very nice uptick in detail when compared to past DVD editions, even in the film’s many darker interior sequences. Colors are reproduced very nicely and always appear quite natural looking and the transfer provides nice, deep black levels. There are no problems to note with any edge enhancement or noise reduction and compression artifacts are never an issue.

    A Japanese language audio option is provided in 24-bit LPCM 1.0 Mono with optional subtitles provided in English only. The mono track sounds good, it’s clean and balanced well. No problems with any hiss or distortion to note and there’s a reasonable amount of depth for the score and sound effects work featured in the mix.

    Supplements on the disc offer up a brand new audio commentary by Tsukamoto expert Tom Mes that talks right off the bat about how a lot of people feel that the film doesn’t fit in with the rest of his work, how it was a big shift in tone from Testuo and how the film plays very much as a straight horror movie. He covers the manga that inspired the film, how opinions on the film seem to have changed over the years as Tsukamoto has developed as a filmmaker, the countryside locations used in the movie, some of the themes that the picture explores such as Japanese culture’s take on seniority, influences that have worked their way into the movie and more.

    A brand new interview with director Shinya Tsukamoto runs twenty-eight minutes and sees the director talking about why he chose to adapt Daijoro Moroshi's manga into a film after the success of Tetsuo, why the English title was chosen for the film and how it wasn't his idea, why he chose to make a more conventional film with this outing, incorporating elements of Japanese folk lore into the movie, making this film with a committee as opposed to independently, how he wound up working with a completely new cast and crew on the project, working with Ishikawa on the score for the film, amusing anecdotes from the shoot and quite a bit more.

    There are also two archival features on this release come in the form of separate on camera interviews with director Shinya Tsukamoto, which runs eight minutes, and with the effects technician who designed the spider goblin creations used throughout the movie, which runs four minutes. The effects interview is pretty interesting and we get a chance to see the props used for the film in a more casual light and we're given a good idea of how they were constructed. The interview with Tsukamoto is, as his interviews tend to be, also pretty interesting. He's a strange man not without his quirks but he comes across as very friendly and appreciative of his audience here as he has in the past.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are an archival introduction to the film by Tsukamoto, a two minute archival featurette on the goblin creation effects work featured in the movie, a trailer for the feature, the Mondo Macabro promo reel, menus and chapter selection options.

    Hiruko The Goblin - The Final Word:

    Hiruko The Goblin isn’t Shinya Tsukamoto at his most audacious or at his best but it is a fun creature feature with some memorable effects work and set pieces to keep us entertaining. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray gives the film a welcome high definition facelift and includes a nice selection of extra features both old and new, making for a very nice package for the film overall.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Hiruko The Goblin Blu-ray screen caps!

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