Saturday, August 20, 2011

Genocide (1968)

I bought this movie under the title War of the Insects, but that’s such a ridiculous title that I’ll stick to the other official US title instead, Genocide, which is a more proper representation of the story and concept of the production. Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu, the man behind The X from Outer Space and written by Susumu Takaku, who also wrote Goku, Body Snatcher from Hell, this is probably the oddest Japanese production I’ve seen in a while. I guess it must have been a nightmare for foreign distributors to market this movie, because it’s absolutely not what it first seems to be.

An American airplane crashes outside a small Japanese island. The crew manages to escape with parachutes, and takes shelter in a cave. Then something goes wrong. Only one of them comes out alive from that cave, but he’s in deep shock, almost a coma, and when he finally wakes up he’s first very confused… and then very violent! A local man is accused of killing the two other men, but a brave scientist knows that the man is innocent and tries to prove that it’s insects that killed them. Soon a more sinister plan is revealed, a plan that could mean the end of humanity…

So first of all: there are no giant insects or disaster scenes in Genocide. There are no epic attacks by bees on humans and there’s hardly any action. Actually, it’s has very little of what the spectacular posters promises, and if you know this, if you’re prepared to be demonsterfied, you’re in for a treat.

If we ignore that Cinematic Titanic raped this movie, Genocide is an off-beat freaky little drama-thriller with an interesting premise and execution in the same typical classy Japanese way. The acting is good, and the script – which is lacking action – has a lot of twists and turns, but stays low-key and adds one or two nasty details to an already dark and downbeat story. The characters are unsympathetic and cold towards each other, for example, one person that we could call a hero is cheating on his wife and this is never revealed to her, it’s just a fact in the background, nothing else. The US soldiers and officers are borderline psychos, the cause of the killer-insects is highly controversial and still feels like an odd choice – but good, original and very dark. There’s no nice people here, beware.

The whole story is set on the island and the characters are few. The bee-attacks are very effective and show us a couple of spectacular macro-shots of them biting with their jaws into something that look like human skin and flesh. One miniature house is blown to pieces, and that’s about it when it comes to killer animal-mayhem.

But Genocide is a damn fine movie. It keeps up the pace the whole show with only dialogue and twists. The characters are multi-layered and interesting, even if we hate them. I love the fact that everything is doomed already from the beginning. The sense of dread in this tropical paradise is evident and the ending, very down-beat, fits perfect to the story… and must have left a weird atmosphere in the drive-in cinema afterwards.

The DVD from Sinister Cinema looks ok. Taken from a movie print, in widescreen and with good colours, this is better than I expected. The sharpness is not the best and the resolution is a bit low, but that’s something you might notice only in the wide shots.

I think most of you would like this weird little flick, because I did and I see no reason for you to read my blog if you dislike the movies I like. So that’s why I wrote a few words about it. You WILL like it!

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