The second movie in the When Horror Came to Shochiku box set from The Criterion Collection is definitely a step towards the horrific. Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (1968) offers us alien vampires as only the Japanese could deliver. Director Hajime Sato only had 8 films in his short career but he dived into the horror end of the pool more than once. House of Terrors (1965) is a lesser-known flick about a hunchbacked caretaker in a dark mansion while The Terror Beneath The Sea (1966) is more well-known thanks to the presence of Sonny Chiba. With Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, Sato takes what he learned in those films and perfects it in what was a truly strange and horrific presentation.
The story centers on a plane traveling from Tokyo to Osaka. The sky turns red as bloody birds begin to hit the plane. After the pilots receive a message to return to the airport as one of the passengers may have a bomb, the radio is destroyed after a man pulls out a gun. On the radio, a brief part of a message is heard involving a UFO over Japan. The plane crashes after an encounter with the UFO, landing on an island. While it may sound like we’re dealing with sci-fi again, events turn towards the horrific. The UFO is on the island as well and from it emerge blob-like creatures that begin invading the passengers bodies. Once possessed, they become vampires. Turns out the aliens are known as the Gokemidoro and they plan on exterminating everyone on Earth.
Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell offers a good mix of sci-fi (alien invasion) and horror (vampires) with some crazy visuals. The film clearly had a low budget but the result here is almost surreal and dreamlike, which add tension and uneasiness. Yes, it is cheesy at times and it may not be a classic but it is well worth checking out. Go watch the trailer on YouTube and prepare yourself for tomorrow’s movie, The Living Skeleton (1968).