Bakemono - World Premiere Review
Director: Doug Roos
Starring: Takashi Irie, Marilyn Kawakami, Miki Nomura, Dominic Early, Yurika Natsume
Written by: Doug Roos
Produced by: Doug Roos
Cinematography by: Doug Roos
Original Score by: Doug Roos
A gruesome creature waits for unsuspecting victims at a cheap Tokyo rental apartment.
In Japanese, Bake means "changing" or "transforming" and Mono means "thing" or "creature" and right away we know Writer/Director Doug Roos is a huge fan of films like 'Hellraiser', 'The Thing' and 'Alien'. With zero CGI and all effects being 100% practical 'Bakemono' will certainly appeal to the gorehounds out there.
In Tokyo, Japan a sleepy little AirBnB plays host to a nightmare fuelled evening for a slew of unsuspecting guests. Some of them are good people, some of them are bad people and some of them are just trying to survive their shitty lives. It doesn't really matter because we never have anytime to get attached to any of the characters, of which there are way too many, as the film only serves the purpose of putting it's gooey monster on a pedestal for us all to enjoy.
Each character gets taken out meticulously by the monster (and usually in a disgusting and very bloody way) and as the film progresses we realise that the monster isn't acting alone and that the landlord of the apartment building is it's slave.
'Bakemono' is clearly an independent production, there's no denying that, but it's obviously been made by a fiercely passionate and talented filmmaker who has a deep love for practical effects, especially the squishy, gory kind. Doug Roos doesn't hold back on the blood and gore and the film is rife with deeply unsettling imagery and moments that may be triggering to some. It is a very tense and cruel film that's filled with unrelenting savagery and although there is a basic narrative present, the film plays out more like a collection of scenes rather than a traditionally cohesive feature film. If you're a fan of John Carpenter's 'The Thing' and Clive Barker's 'Hellraiser' or other similar 80s horror then you will definitely appreciate all the fantastic work that has been put into this one.
Cinematically it's not on the levels of the two films mentioned above, for obvious reasons, but there's something about the dark, intimidating Tokyo streets. The dim lights of the alley ways. The threatening shadows that linger on the characters. The dank apartment rooms. Roos does an amazing job of creating a genuine sense of dread that simmers throughout the entire film. However it's not just the tone that's dark, there's a few too many scenes that were very difficult to make out what was actually happening. Lighting issues aside, there's just a constant feeling of uneasiness right up until the final credits.
One of my small gripes is that there are just too many characters who are all very much under-developed and the film probably runs a little too long. I also think we see the monster too early on. Even though it's mostly in semi-darkness, there are a few short scenes where we see it lit up in all it's grotesque form that would've been more effective waiting to reveal later on in the film.
The film works really well when there's little to no dialogue and we're just focussing in on a particular character in their apartment room. Especially the scenes with Mitsuo the landlord, which add a bit more depth to the overall narrative and I was a big fan of how the monster seemed to effect characters differently in that it almost possessed their minds and made them turn violent against their friends and lovers. All this violence is yet another lovely excuse for Roos to deliver more gooey, fun practical effects which he actually designed and applied himself.
'Bakemono' might be a tough watch for some horror fans, even seasoned fans might be put off by it's slower, seemingly non-linear plodding plot but there really is something special going on here and Roos deserves a lot of plaudits. It's still deep in a festival run so there's plenty of time for a shorter, tighter cut before it gets a wide release, which Director Doug Roos has revealed he is still working on.
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'Bakemono' received its World Premiere at Another Hole In The Head on December 9th and is due for release in 2024