Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (Japan 1968)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/12/13

A Babylonian monster called Daimon is awakened when some grave robbers desecrate the shrine he was entombed in. For whatever reasons, he decides to take up residence in Japan, disguised as a local magistrate. When the local yokai (ghosts) hear of this, they band together out of national pride to kick the monster out of their country and protect the reputation of Japanese spirits.

Definitely a strange film, and unique in that Japanese ghosts are depicted as benevolent peace keepers. I suspect the notion of friendly ghosts was intended for a younger audience, but the film is very serious and mature in its presentation. It's a great looking film and the visual effects are extremely impressive, especially considering that it was made in 1968. The pacing is a bit sluggish, but the material is fascinating. It's a virtual encyclopedia of Japanese spirits and folklore, featuring dozens of bizarre creatures and arcane rituals. My favorite is the inexplicably weird hopping umbrella monster, which sports two arms, one leg, a single eye, and a twelve inch tongue. Another monster looks like a walking penis as far as I can tell. It's a fun film that favors lighthearted fantasy over scares and gore, and I look forward to seeing the other films in the series.