100 Monsters/Review

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< 100 Monsters

100 Monsters is quite unlike any other horror film I've ever seen. In fact, 100 Monsters is unlike any film I've ever seen ever, and I've been alive for nearly five decades now. I watched 100 Monsters about two weeks ago and it was supposed to be my second comeback review for GCDB, but I couldn't quite figure out a jump of point for this piece and - if I'm to be honest with you, dear reader - I still haven't. Some days I find myself reflecting on the 80 minutes I spent with 100 Monsters as some of the best I've ever spent with any film, and other days I look back and wonder what the bloody hell I was thinking. I still have no idea how I feel about 100 Monsters, so for once, I'm going to just simply state the facts and let you make up your own minds.

100 Monsters is described as a Japanese fantasy horror film and at its heart, that's what it is. Corrupt landowners are planning to knock down a series of shrines as well as a tenement house that holds an entire village, so they can build brothels around the country. This goes over about as well as you can imagine it would, but it seems there is nothing that the local folks can do about it, as the corruption goes deep into the heart of local government.


Now, I'll admit that this doesn't sound like much of a Japanese fantasy horror film, and it isn't. The actual plot of 100 Monsters seems to be about zoning permits, but lurking in the background are the 100 Monsters of the title, and they can easily be released. We learn this at the beginning of the film when the soon-to-be evicted are telling ghost stories. As usual, part of this ritual sees them light and blow out a candle at the end of each tale, therefore showing reverence to these spirits and keeping them from emerging into the real world to exact a terrible vengeance.


Proving that poor people understand that you should always follow folklore, the rich and corrupt landowners throw a party to celebrate their evilness and invite along a storyteller as the evening's entertainment. After he has finished his tales of 100 Monsters he wants to perform the cleansing ritual, only for his hosts to tell him there is no need and they have a much better way of dealing with any creepy specter that may come forth, and that is with good old fashioned money. It is here that 100 Monsters comes into its own.


I'll lay my cards on the table here. Up until the last thirty or so minutes of 100 Monsters, I was already trying to figure out what I should watch next as I couldn't see myself getting any kind of article out of what I was watching. It's not that there was anything fundamentally wrong with 100 Monsters, it's just that it hadn't really done anything. Bar the opening few scenes and the appearance of the Umbrella Demon - who looks fantastic, but is about as scary as a kitten - 100 Monsters wasn't much of anything. But boy, did business pick up when the curse kicked in. When we get the 100 Monsters unleashed - though I'm pretty sure it's about 30, tops - they are breathtaking. Even today, over 50 years later, they are just jaw-dropping to look at. Not every single one passes muster - the monster from the beginning just looks like a giant carpet - but the big guns are unlike anything you've ever seen before. my favorite is the Giant Monster who is blatantly a superimposed shot of an actor dressed up in SFX make-up and blown up to make them appear to fill the night sky, but it is done so well and is such a "Holy crap!" moment that you can easily leave your disbelief at the door and just get swept along in the fantasy that is now unfolding before you.


If I have any complaint with 100 Monsters is that it takes far too long to unleash the beasts themselves on the audience. I'm all for a movie about evil land barons, but when you call your movie 100 Monsters then your audience is going to expect 100 Monsters. However, if you do choose to stick around for the full duration of 100 Monsters when the visual effects eventually kick in and the demons start to run amuck, you will be treated to a visual spectacle that is unlike anything else you've ever seen, and that alone should make 100 Monsters a must-see for any fan of Japanese Fantasy Horror.

Neil Gray is a writer from the UK. The story goes that he was invented in a laboratory experiment that went horribly wrong and has spent years devouring every movie form and film genre that was foolish enough to pass his way until he is now nothing more than a hideous monstrosity, more celluloid than man.
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