Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People (Japan 1963)

Rating: **
Review Date: 12/13/12
Director: Ishiro Honda
Cast: Akira Kubo

Seven pleasure seekers take a boat trip and end up marooned on a deserted island. While exploring the island, they discover a derelict research vessel covered in mold and fungus. Further investigation reveals that scientists were studying the effects of radiation (a common Honda theme) on the local flora and fauna, and that they also discovered a dangerous breed of mushroom called Matango. The crew is warned not to eat the mushrooms, but starvation and desperation get the best of them. Eating the mushrooms causes one to actually start turning into a mushroom, which explains why the bodies of the scientists were never found. Will the crew manage to survive long enough to escape the island, or will they become mushrooms too?

While the pacing is sluggish, the film creates an excellent atmosphere of tension and dread. The visuals are delightfully creepy and the "laughing mushrooms" are unsettling. The film is primarily a character study, exploring how each member of the crew deals with their increasingly hopeless plight. Greed, selfishness, violence, and self preservation rule the day, and there is evil in everyone's hearts. Definitely one of the strangest and most adult oriented films of Honda's career.