GORE IN THE STORE
GHOST MASTER (GOSUTO MASUTA) ***
Directed by Paul Young.
Starring Takahiro Miura, Riko Narumi, Akaji Maro.
Horror comedy, 88 minutes.
Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival, March 2020.
It would be a rare occasion that you would hear Akira Kurosawa enthusiastically and forcefully singing the praises for Tobe Hooper’s 1985 flop LIFEFORCE. If for some reason such an event would be on your bucket list, then Paul Young’s GHOST MASTER is the film for you. Before raising your hopes let me state that the Kurosawa in question here is not the master of samurai cinema but a lowly production assistant on the set of a low budget high school romance. The fact that he shares the name with one of the true masters of cinema is never remarked upon; just one bizarre instance in a film that packs every scene full of them.
GHOST MASTER is two things, one being a comedic take on possession and zombie movies. The other being a love letter to horror cinema, particularly for some reason Tobe Hooper. The decidedly random plot in which a script that Kurosawa has written somehow magically channels its dark energy and plotline into the real world and possesses Yuya, the self-involved star of the teen romance. Kurosawa takes on the task of filming once he realises that Yuya is acting out the script's central premise. With Kurosaw rewriting on the fly and trying to keep a lid on Yuya’s demonic killing spree with his amateurish directing skills the film could have been titled ONE CUT OF THE EVIL DEAD.
The description above may make the film sound silly, but the result takes silliness to new extremes. The reason for the script coming to life is brushed aside so quickly that you are then left trying to figure out why a prop sword has somehow become a “Demon Sword” that randomly turns floppy which then leads onto ice lollies being used as weaponry. Trying to figure it all out could end up, resulting in a big headache, so it is best to sit back and let it unfold in its bizarre random fashion.
Like ONE CUT OF THE DEAD, it celebrates low budget filmmaking but in a way that is much more focused on horror fandom. At one point, Kurosawa exclaims “Do it for Tobe!” as his directing style. Visual nods to Hooper’s space vampire magnum opus pop up, and the appearance of the now possessed script bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain Necronomicon.
For fans of Japanese cult cinema, there is a lot to enjoy here. The cast seems to have been plucked from the majority of Takashi Miike and Sion Sono films from the past decade. Like those directors, Young loves to indulge in moments of outrageous gore mixed up with broad comedy. Impressively he manages to conjure from all this surreal nonsense a near haunting ode to the obsessive creative urge that drives an artist to share their vision. Young manages to combine this with a homage to a certain Cenobite from HELLRAISER 3: HELL ON EARTH proves how much love for the genre he has. For those who do not have the patience for such random humour or geeky shout outs this could be a hard proposition but for those who share in the love for LIFEFORCE and the more ridiculous aspects of the horror genre Young’s enthusiasm is infectious.