FREAKSHOW Matango

Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time also goes by the title Attack Of The Mushroom People

1963
Director:
Ishiro Honda
Cast:
Akira Kubo, Kenji Sahara, Yoshio Tsuchiya
Available on region one DVD

It may sound like an exotic fruit juice, but matango is something far more pernicious than a carton of Um-Bongo. This macabre horror flick has a serious anti-drug message. Never mind the brown acid, kids, it’s the fungi in the woods you want to steer clear of. A mouthful of ‘shrooms could turn you into a lumpy-headed subhuman.

A yachtful of seven disparate characters are stranded on a mysterious island. Making a home in a deserted wreck, they discover that food is scarce, except for the mind-altering mushrooms that cover the island. One by one, they succumb to their hunger, and turn into monsters. Mind you, they don’t have far to fall…

A product of Toho  – the same studio who turned giant lizard-wrestling into a spectator sport – this is a surprisingly downbeat example of Japanese horror, with an extremely cynical view of human nature. Soon the men are stealing food from the communal store, threatening each other with knives, and leering over the women in the party with the threat of rape in their eyes.

In the States, Matango was retitled as Attack Of The Mushroom People. Although the “mushroom monsters” that pop up at the end are gloriously silly, that monicker doesn’t really do it justice. With its eerie environments – a fog-shrouded beach of black sand; a gangrenous ghost ship – and its cast of self-serving scumbags, this is a surprisingly bleak, disquieting B-movie.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Jess Franco’s Female Vampire four or five times, but never seen Casablanca. The nutter.

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