Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare
(Yokai daisenso) (1968)
Directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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Some time a few hundred years ago, Daimon, an ancient evil spirit, is released from its prison in Mesopotamia and makes its way to Japan, where it kills a provincial official, takes his form, and begins feeding on the local children. The fiend is, however, opposed by the dead official's daughter, one of his underlings, and, after having brutalized the kappa living in a nearby pond, by the various spirits of the region.

Yoshiyuki Kuroda's Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare is a fun, goofy movie. I will not claim that it is very good, but it is entertaining.


The narrative mingles supernatural themes that sometimes verge on the horrific (though the film never really is frightening) with comic elements and even with some action sequences. The movie does arouse a feeling of menace with its shape-changing villain and his vicious habits, which include murder, sacrilege, and feeding off of the blood of children. At the same time, the slapstick antics of some of the spirits (the kappa in particular) and of some of the supporting players are completely goofy. The deeds of one of the dead lord's loyal followers, his efforts to defeat the invading fiend with magic (with the help of a Buddhist monk) and his later battles against the creature, are reasonably exciting. The director even, somehow, manages to conjure up a vision of a countryside inhabited by diverse supernatural beings, which gives the movie a wonderful aura of enchantment. The result is a good deal of light-hearted joy.

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Admittedly, the costumes used to portray the movie's various supernatural beings are of less than impressive quality, but most are reasonably effective. The majority of the spirits are created with rubber masks or suits, but a few are simply props, and a number are realized by inventive photography. Whatever the means used to bring these beings to life, nearly all of them are a pleasure to see. Over the course of the movie, the viewer is presented with a hopping umbrella furnished with a single eye and a mouth from which lolls an enormous tongue, a turtle-like kappa, a woman with a ridiculously long, prehensile neck, a woman with two faces on opposite sides of her head, one of which is beautiful and the other of which is hideous, and more besides these. The list goes on and on.


While Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare is never more than a source of silly delight, it certainly is that.

Review by Keith Allen

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