Bakemono Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Lost Forever Productions

bakemono poster large

Written and directed by Doug Roos
2024, 101 minutes, Not Rated
Released on December 9th, 2023

Starring:
Takashi Irie as Mitsuo
Yukina Takase as Tomoko
Yurika Natsume as Reina
Miki Nomura as Risa
Laila Chiba as Nozomi
Setsuka Akiyama as Lily
Scott Anthony as Eric
Dominic Early as Chris
Takumi Isaji as Daiki
Yoo Shin K. as Jaehoon
Marilyn Kawakami as Anna
Yosuke Koizumi as Sketchy Guy
Keito Kunii as Salaryman
Conor Lyne as Sean
Vanessa Mertenbacher as Emilia
Mai Mizusawa as Kyoko
Sayuri Nakata as Asami
Alice Nemoto as Juri

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Review:

As my eyes scanned the email, I stopped cold at the words “...practical FX Japanese monster movie called Bakemono”. One of the quickest ways to get to me is practical FX. I have nothing against CGI. It’s even what’s called for in certain situations. However, in the world of independent horror, there’s only one way to go for my money. Also, I’ve developed a taste for the Japanese look and locales that made this film too intriguing to pass up. So, here we are.

Bakemono made its debut at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco, and I’ll go on record as saying that we can expect to see it at more festivals sooner rather than later. The extremely non-linear style (think Memento and you’re on the right track) is a tad confusing at first (as that style tends to be), but once you settle into the narrative and realize who’s simply fodder for the monster and who matters, the picture becomes clear and you realize how much is actually being said.

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The tale centers on a cramped, utilitarian Airbnb in Tokyo that’s inhabited by a monster that attacks its unfortunate tenants at midnight. Though, sometimes it doesn’t attack them so much as make them turn on each other. The creature has claws and teeth and tentacles, sure, but it also has psionic abilities that make it more than just a mere eating machine. Then there’s Mitsuo (Takashi Irie; Planet of Amoebas), the apartment’s owner and proprietor. There’s much more to him than first meets the eye; he’s not just an unhappy husband who works too much, to be sure. In many ways, Mitsuo is the real monster of the story…though just what social topic/societal evil is truly being skewered all depends on which character is meeting the creature face to face.

The real star of Bakemono is the creature itself, and American writer/director Doug Roos wasn’t pulling my chain when he said the practical FX are on point. The creature itself is something out of an orgy between Clive Barker’s visual psyche, H.P. Lovecraft’s sensibility, and John Carpenter’s vision of alien terror…a skinless man-shape with teeth, eyes, and mouths in all the wrong places. There are also tentacles and pseudopods galore. I mean, a party like this wouldn’t be complete without that, right? The practical FX are a thing of goopy beauty, and how they are utilized in the course of the film is both clever and inventive. I particularly enjoyed the needle-like quills that accompany the pseudopods; these things aren’t even safe to stomp on, for fuck’s sake!

Cinematically, Bakemono is on the dark side. This serves the monster FX shots very well, but it can sometimes make the human interactions a little harder to see in such a black-saturated environment. Still, I’d say it’s born out of necessity; this isn’t a film meant to be done in broad daylight. This one is all about the darkness. And there really are some lovely forced perspective shots that highlight the claustrophobia of the tiny Airbnb.

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There are so many characters in this film (and so many of them are ultimately monster fodder) that it takes some time to figure out who besides Mitsuo really matters. That doesn’t make it any less fun or horrific, however; at one point a girl turns on her friend with a fork in a stabbing frenzy that will make you cringe. By the final act, the story organizes itself into something almost linear and we understand the depths of not only the horror Mitsuo has summoned but the horror of Mitsuo and (dare I say) Tokyo itself.

On that note, Bakemono is a film that says plenty about the rather monstrous nature of Tokyo (and to some degree Japanese society) itself. A host of real stories about the dark side of Tokyo are woven into the various character’s stories. The social attitudes expressed by many characters in the film, especially where gender roles are concerned, are prevalent in Japanese society. Doug Roos sure does have a lot to say on the subject, and many of the interactions will really make you think. Horror is a great lens for exposing societal issues, and Roos does so with aplomb in Bakemono.

Either way, whether you check out Bakemono for the goopy practical FX and monster madness or the underlying social critique, you’re in for a gory treat that comes at you in an unconventional way and leaves a mark. I hope to see more out of Doug Roos in the future.

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Grades:

Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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