MATANGO marks one of GODZILLA director Ishiro Honda's most frightening Horror films, even if it would be considered to be much tamer by today's standards. The film finds a group of friends taking a pleasure cruise on their yacht, when they are shipwrecked on a remote island after a fateful storm. With little found to eat, the survivors struggle over the few roots and turtle eggs they can manage, while avoiding the mysterious fungus they find growing all around the isle. Finally, several of the shipmates break down and begin eating the mushrooms, but not long after these same friends become enemies as they begin to exhibit terrible and frightening characteristics of greed, anger, and hostility. Having indulged in their vices, the fungus eaters morph into horrible mushroom people bent on turning the remaining survivors and destroying what is left of their humanity!
Honda's everlasting faith in humanity seems shaken throughout Takeshi Kimura's script, as each of the characters battle with one another with very little cooperation or friendship left between them. MATANGO's lavishly dressed sets create a series of memorable images, from the suffocating forests drenched in fog to the claustrophobic and rotted interior designs of the ship's hull. Roving cameras combine with Tsuburaya's seamless integration of the illustrious matte paintings and miniature set designs to give the film a large feel despite the cramped settings. Where many genre fans may stand divided is on the film's slower pace and heavily drawn characters, since Honda focuses on the psychological horrors of betrayal and the loss of personal identity over the cheap thrills of the average monster flick. Even still, the creatures are unsettling and original, displaying a wide range in design between the various mushroom people. On a technical level, MANTANGO stands as one of Honda's greatest achievements, and as a beautiful Horror Fantasy that is both moody and atmospheric.
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If you liked MANTANGO, check out:
GODZILLA, ATRAGON, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES.