Another Hole In The Head 2010: Death Kappa

The seventh annual Another Hole In the Head Film Festival is currently running in San Francisco from July 8th through the 29th. It’s a genre fest featuring domestic and international horror, sci-fi, and exploitation films, and it just may be the first and last chance to see some of these on the big-screen. There are thirty-two films at the fest this year, and we’re trying to see and cover as many as possible. (And by we I mean me…)

Death Kappa – directed by Tomo Haraguchi, Japan; upcoming screenings 7/17 7pm, 7/29 7pm

Synopsis: Who’s up for a giant monster movie? And by giant monster of course I mean old school style with a man in a suit trashing his way slowly through a miniature set… but let’s rewind. A young woman returns to her home town just in time to witness a car full of drunken punks run down her grandmother. As if that’s not bad enough the fools also knock the town’s Kappa shrine into the water. (What’s a Kappa? It’s a cucumber-loving goblin with a turtle shell, a beak, and a bald plate on his head. Oh, and they love sumo wrestling.) Unsurprisingly, this brings the Kappa to life, and after a brief detour into violence to dismember the punks the Kappa settles in for some singling and dancing with our heroine. Until a mad scientist’s granddaughter shows up with her plan to create an army of half fish/half human super soldiers and inadvertently detonates an atomic bomb which mutates the Kappa and another creature into a skyscraper-sized behemoths and men-in-suit mayhem ensues. So like I said… who’s up for a giant monster movie?

Check out our review after the jump…

Review: I’m a fan of giant monster movies from Godzilla to War Of the Gargantuas so I’m automatically inclined to enjoy Death Kappa. The ‘man in a suit as giant monster’ brings me back to my childhood faster than most other cinematic imagery, and it’s a fun break from modern film effects. The remote-controlled miniature tanks, jets and helicopters suspended by wires, and slow-motion destruction just makes me smile. Death Kappa‘s giant monster madness doesn’t begin until halfway through the film though, and until then we’re stuck with a mixed bag of scenes, gags, and characters that never quite come together as a whole.

The film opens with a scientist discussing the mysteries beneath the Earth’s crust and explaining the history of the Kappa, and this is a good thing because otherwise you’d stare at this ridiculous looking creature and wonder what the hell it’s supposed to be exactly. Kidding, you’ll still wonder. But for the first forty minutes he isn’t really the strangest character in the film. From the hunchback at the train station to the liqueur-store owner with a small face on his face there are odd little touches that seem to go nowhere, and when the crazy female scientist shows up still pissed about the outcome of WWII you basically have to give up any expectation of sanity. It’s fun, but it’s not insane enough… between these outrageous characters are plenty of slow scenes with nothing really happening. It makes for a disjointed setup and leaves you uninterested when you should be engaged.

The second half features a more consistent degree of fun as the Kappa and the evil creature grow to ginormous size and lay waste to the city. The film-makers are blissfully aware of the genre’s history and have a good time poking fun at it even as they embrace the charm and playfulness these films are remembered for. The city set is a joy to behold especially as the buildings get smashed and trashed by the feuding monsters. They toss each other into and through the skyscrapers, they punch and flail about with exaggerated arm motions, and as the toy helicopters fire missiles clearly attached to wires you just may find yourself transported back to a rainy afternoon watching WPIX and loving every minute of the giant monsters battling onscreen.

Check out the complete festival schedule here.

And check out the rest of our festival coverage here.

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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