The Ides of March are upon us and anyone named Ceasar should be careful today. So last year, I received a box with a bunch of Japanese and Korean monster movies. Today’s movie is the last movie to come out of that box. I will be honest, I had heard of this movie before but never had much interest in it as a kid. Then, a few years ago I started getting more interested in the Toho monster movies that were not Godzilla, but I never got around to buying this. So thanks to my mystery benefactor for the gift as I watch today’s movie, Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People.
The plot: Kenji Murai, a university professor, is being held in the psychiatric ward at Tokyo Medical Center and when someone comes to see him, he begins to tell him how he wound up in the hospital, claiming his story sounds crazy but is true. Some time ago, Kenji was on a yacht along with Naoyuki Sakuta (the captain), Senzo Koyama (his shipmate), Etsuro Yoshida (a writer), Masafumi Kasai (the owner of the yacht), Mami Sekiguchi (a famous singer), and Akiko Soma (a female student). One night, the yacht runs into a bad thunderstorm and ends damaged and adrift in the sea. After several days adrift, and tempers starting to flare, the finally end up on an uncharted island. Exploring the island, they come across some man-made pools of water, as well as a trail, and decide to see if someone is living on the island. Following the trail, they soon find a ship that had been beached on the island, but they find no sign of the crew. Exploring the fungus-covered ship, they find a lab and theorize that the ship was doing some sort of nuclear testing. Discovering that strong solvents will kill the fungus, they work on cleaning up the ship so they can live on it while working on repairing the yacht or signaling passing ships for help. Realizing that their food stores will only last a week, Kenji and Masafumi go out to try and find some food but Naoyuki warns them not to eat the fungus, as it might be poisonous due to the nuclear testing. While hunting, the two men notice that the birds seem to avoid the island. Suddenly, they see something moving in the trees and Masafumi shoots at it but when they go to see what it was, they don’t find anything. Meanwhile, Senzo finds himself alone on the boat and tries stealing some food but discovers that the larder is locked. That night, the girls see something in the porthole outside their cabin, just as Senzo, who was sneaking around to try and get the food, opens their door but quickly leaves. Naoyuki and Kenji are woken by the sound of someone moving on the deck and run into the girls, who were also looking around. Meanwhile, Masafumi had unlocked the hatch and was getting some of the food when he is attacked by something. Calling for help, he runs into Naoyuki and the others and they all head back to the mens’ cabin. Naoyuki wakes Yoshida and Senzo just as the creature opens the door, revealing itself to be a man covered in fungus but he quickly disappears. The next day, Senzo believes it was just a mass hallucination caused by stress but Kenji shows him and Yoshida footprints outside where something had come to the ship. While everyone goes out to look for food, Naoyuki and Senzo work on repairing the boat. Yoshida confronts Masafumi about his stealing the food before he goes out, and he winds up eating some of the mushrooms. Meanwhile, Senzo stops working on the boat in order to look for food and finds some turtle eggs, bringing some onto the ship and hiding the rest, which he winds up selling to Masafumi. That night, Yoshida and Mami are caught kissing by Senzo, who starts fighting with Yoshida before they are broken up by Naoyuki and Kenji. Yoshida, starting to go crazy from the mushrooms, grabs the rifle and threatens to kill them all but the men overpower him and end up locking him in a cabin. The next day, Kenji and Akiko discover Masafumi tied up in the larder. When they untie him, he says that Naoyuki stole the food and left in the yacht. Suddenly, Yoshida appears holding the rifle along with Mami, who had freed him and threatens to kill Masafumi and Kenji, but keep Akiko for himself. When Senzo appears on the ship, Yoshida shoots him before Masafumi and Kenji manage to take the rifle from him, then force Yoshida and Mami off the ship. After a week of rain on the island, Kenji and Akiko go to look for some more food but Masafumi has given up hope of surviving. While they are gone, Mami shows up and leads Masafumi into the jungle, where she tells him that she survived eating the mushrooms and has him eat some as well. As he is eating the mushrooms, Mami tells him that he ends up becoming a mushroom. Masafumi sees Yoshida, who is beginning to be covered in fungus, as well as several large mushroom creatures but when he tries to run, he finds himself surrounded by the creatures. Kenji and Akiko return to the ship and find no sign of Masafumi, causing Akiko to start to break down. The next day, Kenji sees the yacht off shore and swims out to it, only to discover that Naoyuki died at sea and the yacht had drifted back. As Kenji returns to the ship to tell Akiko, they find themselves attacked by the mushroom creatures and Akiko is taken by two of the creatures. Kenji goes to rescue her, fighting off the mushroom creatures in the process, but when he finds her, he discovers that she is eating the mushrooms and already under it’s influence. As more mushroom creatures approach, as well as Mami, Yoshida, and Masafumi, Kenji is forced to abandon her and makes his way to the yacht to escape. Back in the psychiatric ward, Kenji says he should have stayed on the island with Akiko cause he would have been happy, as he faces the crowd and reveals that he ate some of the mushrooms before he was rescued and is slowly turning into one, saying that humans aren’t much different from the mushroom people.
This was a little weird but a pretty decent movie. Aside from the usual issues with dubbing, the acting was pretty good. The plot was based on a short story called “The Voice In The Night”, but with the variations you would expect from a Toho monster movie. While I am more a fan of the giant monsters in my Japanese monster movies, having giant mushrooms attacking people would have looked really weird so making them human sized made more sense. The special effects involved with the storm and the suits for the monsters were a lot better than what I was expecting. If you are a fan of Japanese monster movies than you will probably like this one.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5