Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kaiju as Demo Reel: Geharha The Dark and Long-Haired Monster

Normally, I prepare myself for a kaiju film. I'll look it up on IMDB, TV Tropes and Wikipedia, so I have some idea of the background of the film. With Chohatsu Daikaiju Gehara, or Gehara: The Dark and Long-Haired Monster a 20-minute short from Kiyotaka Taguchi, I have basically no idea what I'm getting into. This is the debut directoral effort from Kiyotaka Taguchi, who has gone on to work on Ultraman Ginga and other Tokusatsu series.

Geharha, with an uncharacteristic explosion behind him

The opening is promising. The classic fisherman on a boat used in so many films, from Godzilla 1954 to Pacific Rim. Something is interfereing with the engines, and then something surfaces, and the sailors are pulled out of the cabin by HAIR! Yeah, this is going to be fun. We have already established what this film is in less than two minutes. The classic monster from the great unknown sea, and it's not going to be serious.

What terrifies men? HAIR!

Hideo is a journalist, another kaiju film classic. He enconters an unspecified expert that says the monster might be a Keukegen. A little digging (by me) discovers that these are hairy spirits of Japanese folklore. A look into that discovers that Lik the Chinese and Hells, the Japanese have a lot of spirits.

The Keukegen Spirit. In bronze, apparently.

Our reporter goes to an odd shrine, putting me in mind of 2008's Monster X Strikes Back, to find out more about Geharha. It turns out that the great seal, which is implied to have imprisoned the Great Geharha, a plot device used in the first Reborth of Mothra film, has been broken.

What do you want, outlander?

Film crews track Gaharha's movement towards urban area Kanazawa, which I don't think has ever been attacked by a kaiju before. As a reporter describes the approach of the monster, two goofy kids are seen jumping up and down in the background, clearly enjoying being on television, not really taking the approach of the monster seriously. This portrayal of kids as senseless reminds me of the relentless dances that infested the mid-sixties kaiju films such as Frankenstein vs Baragon, Ebrah, Horror of the Deep, and the first Gamera film. Kids these days. And those days.

Woah, there's a giant monst--hey are we live?

When attacked by the military, Geharha responds with a reek, which I suspect is like burning hair. With the military stymied, an inventor steps in, and deploys the Gas Vortical Device. Which, when we get a close look at it, is just a gigantic fan. But once its hair is blown back, the tanks can home on on a vulnerable spot no longer hidden by hair.

Menacing the way none but Hedorah is

Geharha retreats to the mouintains, and falls into a lake. The End appears on screen, but then a UFO, similar to the ones from Invasion of Astro Monster uses a beam to pull Geharha out of the water, now clearly an homage to Invasin of Astro-Monster. Silver-clad aliens then theraten to use Geharha to destroy the world unless all humans will bown down to them.

So, not quite done yet...

We're going to take over the world and make you all wear shades.

What follows is a trailer for Gehara: Monster Martial Law, which looks brilliantly silly, with the aliens attempting to subjugate Earth. It loosk faster-paced, and has a lot of explosions.

What terrifies men? HAIR!

More than anything, Geharha: The Dark and Long-Haired Monster feels lke a demo reel for someone who wants to get into kaiju film. It's compact, getting in a large number of kaiju tropes in its twenty-minute running time, a whirlwind tour of such film. It wastes no time, but it doesn't introduce much that is new, either. The monster Geharha is new, but it doesn't do anything unusual. It rampages, and is defeated by a combination of the military and new sicence. There's little time to paint the human characters in anything but broad strokes. Still, it's effective for what it is, and clearly netted the director interest, because he's got work.

Next week: Growing up in the Seventies. And a Kaiju.

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