Shinya Tsukamoto is a prolific cult filmmaker who is neither content to rest on his laurels nor reside in one kind of style. (His early focus on body horror creates easy comparisons to David Cronenberg, and once you’ve seen Tsukamoto’s breakout film, Tetsuo the Iron Man, it’s hard to forget.) Although subsequent work hewed more toward personal projects in which he often acted himself, Tsukamoto’s second film was a mainstream effort … and a flop. But thanks to Third Window, we can see Hiruko the Goblin for the mostly great time it is.
Adapted by Tsukamoto from the manga by Daijiro Morohoshi, Hiruko the Goblin pairs a disgraced supernaturalist and archaeology professor (Kenji Sawada) with a local high-schooler (Masaki Kudou) to fight the titular goblin — which is possessing people throughout the town.
It’s a simple tale, but Tsukamoto’s execution is fun, lending the film a creepy 1980s vibe while avoiding straight-our horror; a 12-year-old could watch this and have fun being spooked without being horrified. He also manages to make the film feel fresh despite its wealth of inspirations. The effects are also a plus, enjoyable even if not quite top-notch. The presentation of Hiruko herself is pretty incredible and a perfect example of why practical effects (and even stop-motion) can pack a wallop CGI cannot. If you like John Carpenter or Sam Raimi, stop here, grab some popcorn and take a seat for some good entertainment.
Third Window has done a typical bang-up job on its niche Japanese line with a wonderful new restoration, as well as a new interview with Tsukamoto. There’s also an audio commentary from Japanese film historian / critic Tom Mes. Because Third Window clearly knows its audience, there are also two features on the film’s creature effects. It’s all housed in a lovely slipcase. Fans of niche Japanese and / or spooky cinema will be pleased.