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Hiruko the Goblin (1991)
"Yôkai hantâ: Hiruko" (original title)

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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 846 users  
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A school was built on one of the Gates of Hell, behind which hordes of demons await the moment they will be free to roam the Earth. Hiruko is a goblin sent to Earth on a reconnaissance ... See full summary »



(manga "Kairyû-sai no yoru - yôkai hantâ"), (story), 1 more credit »
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Title: Hiruko the Goblin (1991)

Hiruko the Goblin (1991) on IMDb 5.9/10

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Credited cast:
Kenji Sawada ...
Hieda Reijirou
Masaki Kudou ...
Masao Yabe
Hideo Murota ...
Takashi Yabe
Megumi Ueno ...
Tsukishima Reiko
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Bang-ho Cho ...
(as Banhô Chô)
Ken Mitsuishi
Imari Tsuji
Kimiko Yo


A school was built on one of the Gates of Hell, behind which hordes of demons await the moment they will be free to roam the Earth. Hiruko is a goblin sent to Earth on a reconnaissance mission. He beheads students in order to assemble their heads on the demons' spider-like bodies. Hieda, an archaeology professor, and Masao, a haunted student, investigate the gory deaths and eventually battle Hiruko. Written by Pete Stogis <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Fantasy | Horror


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Release Date:

11 May 1991 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Hiruko the Goblin  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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References The Thing (1982) See more »

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User Reviews

A film about a head
12 May 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Hiruko the Goblin (aka Yokai Hanta – Hiruko) director Shinya Tsukamoto has said that this is "a film about a head". I'm not sure that's quite right, but given the relative inscrutability of the film and Tsukamoto's self-professed love of cryptic ambiguity--substantial enough that he has said to not know what certain scenes or films of his are about--I suppose that "a film about a head" will have to do.

But actually, there's much more to Hiruko the Goblin than that, and at least on a surface level, the film is often almost pedestrian in presenting certain horror conventions. It's just that when you try to tie all of the scenes together, or when you try to figure out what certain more poetic and surreal dialogue and events have to do with what's going on elsewhere, the film's transparency for interpretation can harden into a block of concrete quicker than you can say "Ni"! But that's probably how Tsukamoto wants it, and if we're judging the film solely on how well it achieves its aims, we'd have to say it kicks butt. But that's not quite right, either, because a film could aim to suck, and if it does suck, we'd then have to say that it kicks butt. So we have to factor in how enjoyable/aesthetically rewarding the film is in what it sets out to do. On those grounds, I have to stick with a 7 out of 10, or a "C" here.

But enough with trying to be as impenetrably dense as Tsukamoto. Here are the basics of the plot as well as I can understand it: Hieda Reijirou (Kenji Sawada) is an archaeologist who has a penchant for inventing odd gadgets using everyday items, often kitchen utensils. At the beginning of the film, he makes some significant archaeological "mound" discovery. Then we switch to Takashi Yabe (Naoto Takenaka) and the much younger and more attractive Tsukishima Reiko (Megumi Ueno), who are exploring some cave when an unseen force comes after them and makes them quickly dolly along with the camera for some comical close-ups of "terror", ala the opening of Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky (1977). (Did I mention that this is sort of a horror comedy?) Then we switch to three school kids, apparently classmates of Reiko's, the most important of which is Yabe's son, Masao (Masaki Kudou), who are searching for Reiko at the school. They see the scary janitor, Watanabe (Hideo Murota), then get involved in an interesting horror situation at the school, when Reijirou shows up with a bunch of gadgets for some reason. Eventually, Reijirou and Masao Yabe team up and try to solve whatever the mystery was--and it turns out to be fairly bizarre and poetic.

That plot description probably sounds a lot more vague than it would have to, but in addition to the film being a bit confusing, I have to be careful to not give too much away. Maybe it would be better--since surely it's mostly horror fans reading this review who would be wondering if they should check out the film--to say that the first major section is kind of a combination of haunted house/slasher stuff, with a heavy Evil Dead (1981) vibe (Tsukamoto even uses Raimi-like fast hand-held "tracking" shots through hallways, weird angles, and even invokes a chainsaw at one point). The second major section turns into more of a supernatural/creature story--imagine David Cronenberg doing an H.P. Lovecraft film and you'll get the idea.

All of this stuff is good on some level, even if it's pretty difficult to put together. Among the things that I was still bewildered about when the film ended were: What was the relationship between Reiko, Reijirou, Takashi Yabe, and the three boys? What did all of that religion/mythology dialogue have to do with the plot? Why did Masao Yabe have appearance and functional resemblances to his ancestor? Just what was the deal with Masao's back--why was that happening? If you like weirdness, and you don't mind a bit of derivativeness and confusion, you'll love Hiruko the Goblin.

There were a lot of things I loved about the film. I loved Reijirou's gadgets. I loved the blood/gore/decapitations (part of why this is "a film about a head"). Tsukamoto sure knows how to get the visceral stuff right. I liked the humor. I loved some of the cinematography, even if Tsukamoto had his Raimi notes written on his palm while shooting. I loved the special effects, especially the Cronenbergish stuff (and this is another part of why this is "a film about a head"). I loved a lot of the music--especially the melancholy song that Reiko kept singing (which reminded me of some similarly-flavored songs from Suicide Club (Jisatsu saakuru, 2002)--I watched that only a couple weeks before seeing Hiruko). Some of the other music was a bit like generic 1980s "synth-horror" music, but on the other hand, some music that sounded close to that was interesting jazz fusion stuff. I loved the almost corny (well, maybe it just was corny) final scenes, one of which seemed like maybe Richard Kelly kinda stole it for Donnie Darko (2001).

So there were a lot of positive points about the film. I just hope I'm not going to have to pass a quiz on the plot, themes or subtexts.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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