Your new movie Bakemono
- in a few words, what's it about?
It's really about the dark side of Tokyo: Rampant cheating, overwork,
xenophobia, hostess culture, stress, suicide, isolation, alcoholism,
discrimination toward "half" Japanese, gender roles, etc. And of
course, the tentacled transforming monster that embodies all this as it
devours the hapless guests of a short-term rental apartment. I just love
monster movies, and there aren't many regular-sized non-kaiju films made in
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Bakemono?
Carpenter's The Thing was the
main one, but also Battle Royale (carnage,
many characters), Ju-on, and Sicario (in
terms of cinematography). But there are tons more too like Psycho and
Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken By God Part 1. I'm basically mixing two sub-genres
but I really wanted to make an exciting atmospheric monster movie with all
practical FX and no CGI.
is rather non-linear, sometimes associative, when it comes to structure -
so what can you tell us about this narrative approach, and how easy or
hard was it to not literally lose your plot telling your story that way?
Memento and Pulp Fiction inspired that.
I also realized there hasn't been a completely non-linear out-of-order
monster movie before. It's quite rare for horror (Oculus was
a great one though) and even more so for Japanese horror. The film was
always conceived that way since I thought it'd be an interesting way to
pull in the audience and the best way to tell this particular story. I
mapped it all out since you have to really keep track of continuity, which
is a challenge, but I think it really pays off for the audience with some
of the later reveals. There are many hints to the chronological order
scattered throughout. It is taking a risk and challenging the audience
since the main character emerges gradually until you realize who it is
about 40 min in, but I think keeping the audience off-balance is good for
horror. Making it unpredictable where anyone can die at any moment.
of course have to talk about your monster in Bakemono
for a bit, and how was it created?
love to! The word "bakemono" I actually learned when I was
rewatching the original 1954 Godzilla,
since that's the word they use in the film to refer to him. Then when I found
out the meaning of each part of the word (bake = "transforming"
and mono = "thing"), I knew it'd be perfect for a movie inspired
by The Thing. But I just wanted to make something
really gruesome, covered in blood, that transforms in more ways than one
like its face changing throughout the film, mutations coming out of it,
and of course, tentacles. I made four different gelatin masks for it,
designing and sculpting them first, then I built the various mutations you
see. I have a ton of behind the scenes covering all that for my
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns. It was a crazy amount of work, and
doing all those special effects made filming take forever (we shot for
over 80 days although I was the only person doing all those days whereas
the max of other people would be 14 days or 7 days depending on the group
of actors), but I love practical FX so I was happy to do it.
What can you tell us
about your movie's approach to horror?
I like what John Carpenter said before about the originalCat
People. He talked about how in that film you really don't see anything
like in the classic pool scene, but these days that really won't work so
you have to show something. I think he's absolutely right, and with low
budget horror, people assume if you don't show something, it's because you
can't, not that it was a deliberate choice. That said though, you
don't have to show everything. Just show enough to get the audience's
imagination going and build suspense. Really you see the monster quite a
bit in this film along with its mutations, but its face is always different
and even when you see it, it's still somewhat hidden by blood and shadow.
I think darkness is really important in horror but you have to deliver the
goods so it's finding a balance, using a range of light and dark, and just
making the illusion work. I wanted this to be a really FX-heavy film
though with FX all throughout it but still have good characters and a good
story like The Thing.
A few words about
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
though this is a monster movie, I wanted to put in all these real details
around it to help give it a sense of realism. I really try to make the
acting feel real too. But for example, the picnic coolers, which are also
an indicator of where you are chronologically in the story (less at the
beginning, more at the end). A recent Japanese serialkiller called the
Twitter Killer would put the body parts of his victims in picnic
coolers with cat litter to hide the smell, so I used this in the movie, and
many stories of the characters are real like the neighbor who has a mental
problem (a Chinese guy I knew here in Tokyo actually had a neighbor who
would come home all alone and scream at inanimate objects in her
apartment), the Hawaii story, needing a man for a BBQ, the wife asking her
husband to learn Japanese in case something happens to her, etc.
talk about Bakemono's
key cast, and why exactly these people?
the film is really about the dark side of Tokyo, I wanted to basically
show the societal makeup of the city: Salaryman, schoolgirl, ojisan, a
Japanese couple, college girls, and the foreigners that are so rarely seen
in Japanese films but actually do live here: a German model, IT guy,
English teacher, a Korean, etc. I've been living in Tokyo for 6 years
myself but oddly, people don't think foreigners live here. It's also
pretty rare to see a foreigner in a Japanese film speaking Japanese. But
when I was doing casting, I met and interviewed a lot of different people
in Tokyo. I knew the characters I wanted and the cast based on how well
they reflected the theme. I love Japan and I love Tokyo but I think the
dark side of it is really interesting (it's quite hidden too... like the
monster). Plus, it's also perfect for a horror movie although I do have a
couple characters say positive things about Tokyo - but since it's horror,
it can't be all rosey and the reality of it isn't either. I got super
lucky finding Takashi Irie and I think he's the real star of the movie. He
has a lot of experience and he's a phenomenal actor.
You of course also have to talk about Bakemono's
main location, and what was it like filming there?
was actually my apartment. It was difficult shooting there since it's so
small (you can't really tell onscreen but there isn't much space). Since
the location is used a lot in the film, it was challenging too to keep it
visually interesting so I always tried to change the way I filmed it with
different angles, different lighting, steady or handheld, curtains opened
or closed or one open with the other closed (again a continuity
nightmare), etc. Really shot every single part of that apartment but then
there are many scenes outside too at the two nearby metro stations (Koenji
and Nakano), the bridge over the train tracks, the area around the
apartment, etc. Plus, a second house location.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was a very long shoot for me, but for the actors, we tried to keep it
light on set. People would make jokes. A bunch of smiling behind the scenes.
There was a lot of blood, which can be uncomfortable at times (it's very
sticky), and we were filming in the winter so it did get cold. That was
best for the monster suit actor because it can be hot inside that but due
to sound, you can't really run the heater for other actors (although we
did turn it on sometimes between takes). Outside got quite chilly too. I
hurt my ankle somehow one day so I couldn't walk on it much for a week or
The $64-question of course, where can Bakemono be seen?
Its world premiere will be at Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San
Francisco on Dec 9th at the 4 Star Theater, and I'm sure it'll play other
festivals after that but there is a new Kickstarter where backers can get
an exclusive crowdfunding-only cut of the film on Blu-ray with more
practical FX and nudity (I'm still shooting more for this actually and
editing it). A lot of behind the scenes too to show how I did the FX.
That's available here (releasing August 2024):
Anything you can tell us about audience and
critical reception of Bakemono?
festival director told me, "What an awesome and trippy film. Very
well done. This will definitely go far." The reviews are just
starting to come in so I'm not sure but I know from the private test
screening I did, even die-hard horror fans jump, which makes me happy. I
know some people don't like jump scares but even The Thing had them like in the blood test scene, which
was perfectly executed. Another reviewer praised the practical FX a lot,
but his review just reminded me of the early reviews for The Thing
in 1982. He seemed too shocked by the gore and FX, missing the story and characters, which was a bit disappointing to me
since I care so much about those aspects. Making it completely out of
order is taking a risk and challenging the audience plus the way the main
character is not completely obvious from the beginning but he's all
throughout that first act even in the very first shot. I'm surprised the
large cast throws some people since Battle Royale easily
had a lot more characters.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results?
The links below
will take you
I'm working on more practical FX monster movies. I'm quite deep into the next
one I want to make here in Tokyo, which will be a big challenge in terms
website, social media, whatever else?
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/bloodontheblade
The film's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bakemonomovie
you're dying to mention that I have merely forgotten to ask?
film really has a lot below the surface that I hope people pick up on. I
may do a chronological version of the film too like Memento did.
for the interview!
you very much! I really appreciate it!