“Henge” translates to “metamorphosis”, but the movie bearing that name feels more akin to Cronenberg’s The Fly filtered through Tetsuo the Iron Man than to anything Kafka ever wrote. The story is that of Keiko and her husband Yoshiaki’s marital strife: she’s a bit perturbed at his occasional seizures, tendency to speak in tongues, and growing propensity for sprouting monstrous insectoid claws. At first she has him committed, but when that doesn’t work (Yoshiaki just eats scientist and priest alike), she does what any good wife in her position would: she starts seducing random schlubs off the street and bringing them home for her husband to devour. Eventually the authorities catch wind of this, leading to the pair getting gunned down…except the now fully-monsterfied Yoshiaki appears to be part Super Sentai villain, as being shot to death only causes him to grow to kaiju proportions and go on a rampage!
I sort of wish there was more here: a proper explanation for Yoshiaki’s condition rather than just the feeling of bugs crawling through his brain. The giant monster rampage is also incredibly brief, a mere 3 minutes of the 50-minute running time, so if you’re not much of a kaiju completionist and get frustrated at Ultraman’s time limit, Henge is likely not the film for you. Overall it feels more like a pitch for a more ambitious project (director Hajime Ohata also did a short meant to advertise the Hakaiju manga, so maybe I’m transferring some of the remaining sentiment from that). Of the glut of independent Japanese monster movies emerging in the wake of a post-Godzilla, post-Gamera world, Henge’s among some of the better ones, but (much like Demeking) classifying it as a giant monster movie might be a little disingenuous. As a creature feature focusing on the relationship between the monster and wife, it’s decent, but the kaiju rampage at the end comes out of nowhere.
The special effects by Kiyotaka Higuchi (director of G and Gehara) are okay. The creature design is somewhat interesting, but there’re numerous peccadilloes: some CGI blood splatter, buildings that don’t crumble but merely flip when knocked over, and a very rubbery-looking costume. There’s nothing embarrassing or inept, just a lot of little touches that could have been handled better, given a little more time or larger budget. Performances are good, and there’s some fine tension created for the early parts of the movie, so I can see why it’s doing well with the film festival rounds; it feels like the type of short-form experimental movie to watch alongside several others.
Thanks to SciFi Japan for cluing me in that Henge even existed!