HIROKU THE GOBLIN
Lacks the originality of Shinya Tsukamoto's "Tetsuo" films, but compensates with plenty of memorable horror images.
By Steve Biodrowski
HIROKU THE GOBLIN is Shinya Tsukamoto's weird and wonderful ghost story, which should be of interest to fans of Japanese horror like THE GRUDGE -- although the sensibility here is actually closer to outrageous anime like WICKED CITY. Those familiar with the writer-director's TETUSO (Iron Man) films will see many of the same stylistic quirks on display, but the structure is actually far more linear and understandable, making this a more conventional but also more accessible effort.
Set mostly at night in an empty school, the minimal story follows a couple characters trying to track down and destroy a demon that has killed and possessed an innocent girl (or at least her head!). With little plot development, the pacing occasionally lags: there's little dramatic build-up; once the situation has been established, basically the two lead characters run around trying to destroy the "Goblin" while trying to avoid being killed themselves.
Fortunately, the visuals compensate for the weak story. Copping familiar elements from John Carpenter's THE THING and THE EVIL DEAD 2, HIROKU is a roller-coaster horror opus filled with surprises, outrageous effects, and disturbing incongruities (i.e. a severed head singing a beautiful, haunting melody). It's no masterpiece of horror, and it lacks the outrageous originality of the TETSUO films; it just doesn't have the same David Cronenberg via David Lynch sense of avante garde narrative weirdness and thematic ambition. Nevertheless, this entertaining collage of visual motifs is recommended for fans of Tsukamoto's work and of Japanese horror in general.