Among the things I got for Christmas, the one I can say I am happiest with is the "When Horror Came to Shochiku" box set. This is entry #37 in Criterion's ongoing "Eclipse" series, and here focuses on the genre efforts that the well respected Japanese studio Shochiku made from 1967-68. Needless to say, it's something of a treasure trove for fans of offbeat genre films. Without further adieu, let's look at an film in this set.
Shochiku and it's brief foray into horror and science fiction is something that fascinates me. Sure, every country releases it's fair share of horror films, and it's always (well, almost always) great to see other countries take on genre cinema. However, this one was so brief (only one year) that it's particularly refreshing to see it remembered to this day. Well as they say, all good things must come to an end. So let's get on to the last movie in the "When Horror Came to Shochiku" box set, the "nature run amok" film "Genocide."
Whilst headed to an island, A U.S. B-52 carrying a hydrogen bomb is attacked by a huge swarm of insects, causing the plane to crash. As it turns out, these particular insects are able to cause people to go insane and/or die. As the survivors of the crash and those on the island try to find a way to stop this, it appears not all is what it seems...particularly with the case of Annabelle ("Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell" actress Kathy Horan.)
It's interesting to see that this is from "The X From Outer Space" director Kazui Nihonmatsu. Sure, it has some incredibly ridiculous moments that need to be seen to be believed (the insects chanting "Genocide" and the various convoluted twists revolving around Annabelle), but unlike that movie, this is a dark, deadly serious science fiction/horror drama that has some serious things to say about environmental disasters, military meddling and nature's role as a great equalizer. It's also a better acted movie than that film, with performances throughout managing to resonate with the viewer in one way or another. Oh and this is probably the most exploitation like of the movies here, with of insect-maimed flesh, bikini clad babes, over the top melodrama, ripped off shirts and more.
It's also not as fun as that movie, and is the weakest of the films. That's not to say it's a bad movie-it's actually a decent time and offers some pretty memorable and strange moments. It's just that the whole thing tries to juggle too many social themes (war, the horrors of the Holocaust, man's inherently cruel nature and the strained relationship between he U.S. and Japanese governments-both of which are portrayed as being cruel and indifferent) and so many different plot points (conspiracies, romance and deceptions abound!) that it kinda feels confusing. I can tell that those behind this are taking all this seriously, and the nihilistic tone is actually pretty fitting. However, by trying to do too many things at once, a part of it feels a bit like a missed opportunity. With a tighter script, this could have been a lost gem.
As a whole, this should be of interest for fans of movies where nature get's payback, and for fans of the bleaker side of science fiction/horror movies. However, don't expect some sort of undiscovered gem. Just expect a bizarre B-movie with big ambitions that, while not reaching all of them, makes for a perfectly watchable experience.