I first learned about Gehara at G-Fest XIX a couple of years ago when I saw one of the vendors selling the DVD. I asked someone if they knew anything about it. They responded that it was a twenty-minute film that was a tribute of sorts to the genre. The film included quite a bit of kaiju action as well as being a parody of the genre.
Of course, I was tremendously skeptical. A twenty-minute film? A tribute, yet it parodied the genre? This doesn’t sound appealing. Also, look at the kaiju. I can go for obscure but this is taking it to a whole new level!
Well, enough time has passed and, quite frankly, I’ve seen nearly every kaiju movie except for a few. I had the chance recently to watch this film so I gave it a go.
What did I think of this incredibly short film produced in 2009? Read on to find out!
Synopsis: When a giant, hairy kaiju rises out of the depth to attack a small fishing boat, Hideo Hagiwara, a journalist, goes to investigate. One of the two fisherman aboard the vessel survives. Yet, he no longer has any hair. Dr. Murakami explains to Hideo that the fisherman is, obviously, in a state of severe shock. Shortly after Dr. Murakami gives this explanation, the fisherman grabs a handful of Murakami’s hair and rips it out yelling, “Hair! Hair!” in the process.
Hideo visits a shrine where a monster, Gehara, is supposedly encased. The natives, coincidentally, never noticed that the giant monster escaped his tomb.
Murakami consults with a Self-Defense Force commander on how to attack Gehara as Japan prepares for Gehara’s arrival. The hairy beast comes to shore and begins to wreak havoc. Tanks fire upon the kaiju with no effect. However, strands of Gehara’s hair fall off due to the tank blasts and a deadly gas is emitted from the hair, asphyxiating any soldier who is nearby.
Dr. Murakami contemplates on what would be a good way to attack the kaiju when a Caucasian man enters the command room with blueprints about a secret weapon that would help the Defense Force in this situation. What’s the secret weapon? Well, conveniently, it’s a giant fan (no joke).
The giant fan is sent into action as it blows back the hair on Gehara’s head revealing a reptilian-looking head. With his head exposed, the tank corps fires and commences to severely wound Gehara. Gehara retreats in pain back to his mountainous shrine. After suffering another round of missile attacks, Gehara wails and tumbles from a hill into a lake, supposedly killed. Dr. Murakami explains that another Gehara will arrive if mankind doesn’t take better care of the environment and that Gehara was a victim of man just as man was a victim of Gehara.
But wait! Gehara isn’t dead! Just as “The End” shows up on the screen, a U.F.O. bursts through it. Silvery-looking aliens, who speak at a chipmunk pitch, have decided to confiscate Gehara for their plan on taking over the world! They capture Gehara with their spaceship (It’s homage to the Xian ships from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. See the picture below.) and fly off ready to unleash him onto Japan.
What follows are a series of scenes from the supposed sequel (which, as of this review, is not released), Gehara: Monster Martial Law.
Story: With the film clocking in at 20 minutes, it gets right to the point. The film is a standard monster-on-the-loose film that definitely pays homage to the kaiju genre as I stated in the synopsis above.
There are brief bits of comedy that I found myself chuckling at, but nothing that gave me a belly laugh. With the movie’s length, it’s expected that plot holes will be present. There are quite a few of them in Gehara, but the viewer has to keep in mind that the film was never meant to be a feature length film. So, really, the viewer has to go with it. Even when the environmental message comes out of the blue towards the end. That’s the part I really scratched my head at, because nothing about the environment was brought up earlier in the film.
If you enjoy monster-on-the-loose films, Gehara will certainly satisfy that need.
Special Effects: This was the biggest surprise! The special effects for this short film are absolutely amazing!
The model work rivals that of any kaiju film produced in the same period and the areas where CGI is present was utilized perfectly. Some of those scenes involves dust and debris flowing up and around the legs of Gehara as he stomps his way through the city. Some of these CGI effects aid in Gehara’s destruction of individual buildings to give a more realistic and dramatic feel.
There is even some green screen work here. While these scenes aren’t flawless in execution, they come incredibly close. Even the rural landscapes are highly detailed and unique with the lakes, rolling hills, even some jagged hills.
There were a couple of shots where the effects weren’t so great, but they weren’t terrible either. One scene involved Gehara stomping on a street with a car underneath his tail. Here, the effects definitely look like models; especially the car. Another involves Gehara’s tumble into the lake at the end. The Gehara prop definitely looks more like a doll, but I must say it looked more convincing than many Godzilla and Gamera models used for similar scenes in their respective films.
The effects were the biggest surprise of this film. I wasn’t expecting much due to the runtime. But the final product displayed effects work that rivals many kaiju films of the same period.
Acting: The acting is what I would consider average for a film like Gehara. It’s not stellar, but it isn’t awful either. The comedy scenes that occasionally pop up make the acting seem ridiculous and silly, but they, too, are done very well. Besides, this film is, to a degree, a parody, right?
There isn’t much to say for the acting here. The roles are pretty standard fare with a movie that also is a homage to the genre. You have the doctor that stands by and attempts to come up with solutions on how to confront the kaiju. You even have the Self-Defense Force commander barking orders from a distance. A journalist who goes on an investigation, but becomes a by-stander as well.
Again, the acting isn’t terrible, just typical to what we’re used to seeing in most kaiju movies.
Battles: A lot of action here as you would expect from the runtime of the film.
We get the traditional SDF barrage of tank and jet fire as Gehara tramples through the city. The reveal of the giant fan was pretty funny and helped to bring a short scene where Gehara gets decimated by tanks once his hair is blown from his head.
Gehara’s rampage is beautifully executed and is portrayed in a quicker fashion than we’re accustomed to seeing in kaiju films. Gehara frequently will punch a building multiple times before proceeding. Usually, we witness kaiju walk through buildings and topple them with one swipe of the hand. Gehara’s actions seem more human as a result of his slightly different approach to attacking infrastructure.
The battles, of course, are a bit short, but very entertaining.
Human Drama: Again, not a lot here. But for this portion of the movie, it has more to do with the film’s short running time than it does with the story.
The most dramatic portion of human drama we see is when the soldiers suffocate from the noxious fumes emitted from Gehara’s hair. Otherwise, we’re watching people fire tank missiles at Gehara or watching them watching the action.
Overall: Gehara is a very impressive film! While it’s incredibly goofy at some points, which is intentional, it’s also very dramatic in others. The effects rival many other kaiju films; including those from the Heisei Gamera trilogy. Gehara’s suit is very impressive as well as the model work.
The characters are standard fare with little development (again, to be expected here). Yet, there are some funny moments with them. The fisherman pulling Dr. Murakami’s hair, the Caucasian man coming out of nowhere with a secret weapon, etc. They are fun.
The action here is aplenty. From the very beginning, we’re treated to kaiju action and it isn’t long until Gehara shows up on screen again.
Gehara: The Dark and Long-Haired Monster is a wonderful homage to many great kaiju films of yesteryear. It’s also a hoot in other parts. The effects work is a perfect homage to past effects masters like Teruyoshi Nakano and Eiji Tsuburaya. It’s also very entertaining!
If you’re looking for a very quick kaiju fix, Gehara wouldn’t be a bad choice!