Monday, October 3, 2011

Horrorthon 3: Day Three: Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (Hajime Sato, 1968) -- B+

Climate has a dual meaning in Hajime Sato's Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, as weather and politics are inextricably linked. Flying a jetliner, the pilot looks out over the orange clouds and blood-red distance, claiming (as he rightfully should), "never seen a sky like that before." The troubled sky, it turns out, is indicative of an oncoming alien invasion, an event to be felt by the members of the aforementioned flight, after a mean thunderstorm leaves them stranded in the desert, an eclectic cast of characters (a politician, psychologist, terrorist, white woman) left to resolve their difficulties and differences amidst impending doom. Thankfully, Sato's film has far more pep and intelligence than the standard disaster-movie template (in fact, this film arrives well before many of the 1970's American staples), in that the disaster is explicitly (if didactically) tied to Vietnam paranoia, the warring nature of mankind directly responsible for alien intrusion ("Ever since the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima, flying saucer sightings have increased dramatically."). More thrilling about Goke, in terms of archetype, is that it integrates a proto-slasher figure, a would-be terrorist taken over by aliens (the film's best sequence), as the gooey, Blob-like creature penetrates through the forehead, an amusing allusion to collective consciousness and body politic, the mind's desires limited by the capabilities of collective bodies to achieve such ends. Sato has a keen sense of humor too, as when the psychologist goes on a rant about caring for fellow human beings and the politician replies: "Humanism. Just what we need." Moreover, orange-tinted Vietnam footage is integrated throughout (to match the ominous skyline) and if these touches weren't enough, a character makes it clear by film's end: "We're so busy killing each other, the aliens have a golden opportunity to attack." The less-than-subtle choices are off-set by Sato's visceral filmmaking in a number of sequences, a proficiency in establishing genre ethos, and enacting a satirical humanism (even if more than occasionally sexist) while loftily probing historicity without being offensively reductive.

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