It’s Halloween season, which means mandatory viewings of at least two seasonal classics: John Carpenter’s Halloween and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat. How are these two films connected? Well, if you’re an obsessive kaiju nerd (and I suspect you are), you’ll remember that Dougherty was recently announced to write Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla 2 (fingers crossed he’ll become the director as well!), and John Carpenter made an 8mm amateur Godzilla vs. Gorgo short as a wee film student. All things lead back to Godzilla, after all. With that in mind, here’s a run-down of some excellent (albeit non-kaiju) material to watch this season… then blindside your friends by segueing into a conversation about the King of the Monsters.
- Ishiro Honda’s The H-Man and The Human Vapor are certainly creepy, and Dreams has a great sequence or two, but if one had to pick a single outing to represent his horror work, it’s hard to argue for anything other than Matango. The movie is a missing link between the old Weird Tales-era existential transformation horror and the zombie craze that followed, and is easily one of the best sci-fi/fantasy films Toho ever produced.
- Terry Morse, who Americanized Godzilla in 1956, also gave us the old dark house thriller Fog Island, starring Lionel Atwell and George Zucco. It’s not a great film, but in the public domain, in case you’re putting on a film festival on the cheap.
- Godzilla Raids Again‘s Motoyoshi Oda directed Toho’s Invisible Man and several ghost pictures, but I don’t think any have been translated.
- Jun Fukuda, who at 5 films plus Zone Fighter is second only to Honda in Godzilla output, also directed Secret of the Telegian. I think his most Halloween-related output could be Horror of the Wolf, for which he wrote the screenplay, however there are no subs for that film as far as I know (though the original novel just hit the Kindle store in English!). Given the lack of available translations, our recommendation in this case defaults back to the teleporting proto-slasher.
- Yoshimitsu Banno wrote The Prophecies of Nostradamus, which is sort of in the spirit of the season? (Banno’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah is arguably the most horrific Godzilla movie, but we’re talking about non-Godzilla output, after all.) While light on scares, it’s horrific in its own way, and quite a trip to say the least. Return of Godzilla‘s Koji Hashimoto assistant directed, so it’s a twofer.
- RJ Kizer, who directed the American scenes in Godzilla 1985, also co-directed the cult post-apocalyptic action flick Hell Comes to Frogtown. He’s one weird dude.
- Four-time Godzilla director Takao Okawara wrote and directed Reiko, the Psyche Resurrected. This one also doesn’t have any available translations, unfortunately.
- Shusuke Kaneko (Giant Monsters All-out Attack) has several fun horror titles, including My Soul is Slashed, Necronomicon, Pyrokinesis, and God’s Left Hand, Devil’s Right Hand. A general recommendation would be Death Note, but if you can deal with watching something in raw, School of Ghosts 3 might be a more Halloween-appropriate outing.
- Final Wars‘ Ryuhei Kitamura has done straight horror with the likes of Midnight Meat Train and action horror with Alive and Sky High, but there’s no way we’d pick anything other than Versus, the zombie-action-comedy that sits quite comfortably among the greatest hits of Japanese cult filmdom.
- Takashi Yamazaki gave Godzilla an official cameo in Always: Sunset on Third Street 2, so it’s worth mentioning that his Parasyte movies are excellent.
- Shin Godzilla‘s Shinji Higuchi’s Lorelei: Witch of the Pacific may have the word “witch” right in the title, and Attack on Titan is certainly gory, but for a good Halloween horror flick, we’d have to fall back onto his pre-directorial special effects work. Check out the WWII-era robot-on-a-rampage excursion with Tomo’o Haraguchi’s Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disco Club Layla.
As for Shin Godzilla‘s other director…well, Love & Pop is creepy, but not in a Halloween-ish way.
But not every great director actually gave us a Godzilla flick:
- We here at Maser Patrol love Nobuhiko Obayashi, from his weird gender-flipped comedies to his weird time-travel dramas to his weird unproduced kaiju space opera, A Space Godzilla. Obayashi is no stranger to horror, with movies like The Discarnates, The Drifting Classroom, and The Eye’s Visitor, but his seminal, weirdest, most easily-available, and compulsory opus is the 1977 horror movie House. The picture is an experience like no other, and brings bizarre surrealism to an entirely new level.
- Speaking of House, there was another pretty great, completely unrelated American horror movie named House, directed by Steve Miner from concepts by Fred Dekker. Prior to that Dekker wrote the script for the unproduced Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3D, which Miner was to direct. It was Dekker’s first professional gig (according to a recent episode of The Projection Booth about Night of the Creeps), and he went on to do lots of great stuff, but for this list we’re going to pick the Universal monsters mash-up Monster Squad.
Miner is a horror legend in his own right, with the likes of Halloween H20, Warlock, and Lake Placid under his belt, but in this case we’ve got to credit him for introducing and defining the character of Jason Vorhees with Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3.
- Jan de Bont’s 1994 American Godzilla flick remains a perpetual “what could have been” for much of the fandom, but he bounced back and delivered movies like Speed 2, Twister, and the 1999 remake of The Haunting. Personally, I nostalgically remember that flick as dumb fun, but if you want horror with a bit more substance, he was also cinematographer on Cujo.
- Joe Dante was to make a sequel to Godzilla 2000 at one point titled Godzilla Reborn, and one has to sort of lament that it never came to pass. Dante’s most iconic horror classic, Gremlins, is a Christmas movie and therefore ineligible for a Halloween party, but there’s still works like The Howling, Piranha, Burying the Ex, the Twilight Zone movie, The Hole, The ‘Burbs, and his Masters of Horror work to fall back on. Oh, and apparently he was in the US version of Submersion of Japan, go figure.
And while we’re at it…
- Frank Darabont, script doctor on 2014’s Godzilla, is a heck of a strong director in his own right (The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest movies ever made, and the first season of The Walking Dead was a phenomenal achievement). His movie The Mist is well-worth checking out, though I’d suggest going for the black & white version if possible.
- Noriaki Yuasa directed Gamera movies, not Godzilla movies. That said, it’d be remiss not to suggest his kid-friendly nightmare-fuel adaptation of Kazuo Umezz’s manga, The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch. (Parents: your children may assume you’re trying to murder them afterwards.)
Of course, this is just scratching the surface. Tim Burton’s given Godzilla a cameo on more than one occasion. Godzilla il Re dei Monstri director Luigi Cozzi was involved in plenty of low-grade horror projects. Necromantik director Jörg Buttgereit did a documentary about kaiju fandom. Katsuhiro Otomo illustrated A Space Godzilla and directed World Apartment Horror; Akio Jissoji also dabbled in horror directing, on top of writing Godzilla manga. (For those with more deranged friends, feel free to introduce them to Shinichi Wakasa’s effects work through Evil Dead Trap, or put on Tetsuo the Iron Man because Shinya Tsukamoto was in Shin Godzilla, but those might not be the best for a gathering of mixed company… don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
It’s a deep rabbit hole to go down, but the list above should provide some spooky fun… with a slight, tangentially relation in the form of a certain suibaku daikaiju. Have some horror movie fun this Halloween; if you like what you see, then track it back to the people who made it. Guillermo del Toro, Takashi Miike, Shion Sono, Peter Jackson, Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard; horror’s heavy hitters have a propensity for also setting a monster stomping through a city. And if that’s too indirect, there’s always the likes of Henge and Gehara to fall back on.