Chosen for Annihilation – Goké, Body Snatcher From Hell (1968)

With a title like Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro or Goké, Body Snatcher From Hell, the title means the movie has a lot to live up to and so it is a good thing that director Hajime Sato along with the rest of his talented crew and cast made it do just that.

Comprised of a plethora of ideas that merge science-fiction and horror and more, this film so unassuming at first turns out to be a mind-bending and fascinating trip into an end of the world scenario where life is about to get snuffed out thanks to an alien race. This strange and wonderful experience begins in a sky painted red, eerie and frightening as a plane tries to navigate its way through. Those aboard run the gamut from politician to soldier’s wife and all of them tailored in such a way by writers Susumu Takaku and Kyuzo Kobayashi that conflict between them is all but inevitable in whatever form it might take. Soon with birds smashing into the plane and a strange flying light that gets a little too close to the plane, it crashes with a select number of passengers making it out alive. One of those is an assassin who encounters the flying saucer out in the woods, mesmerized to the point where he is taken over by the alien within, the creature oozing inside of the assassin’s head as it splits open to receive the foreign body. It is not long after that the alien starts to kill off the crew one by one, draining the blood from their bodies.

There is a lot to love about this film and it all starts off with that bright red sky, a harbinger for what is to come for those that fly through it. It is a simple special effect but one that is very effective at starting that slow descent into horror that the picture begins to take and for the audience, it lets them know immediately what they are in for. The scene-stealer of course is that moment where Hideo Kô’s character becomes an assassin without the need for mortal weapons any longer. Adding a little body horror to the film where none was expected was a genius move by director Sato, the scene absolutely leaving viewers spellbound as Kô’s face rips open and the alien oozes inside. Even then, that mark on his face remains and the rest of the passengers aside from one of them think nothing of it despite the lack of blood from the wound. It is not merely special effects that sell the film though as the performances from both Kô and the rest of the cast would perpetuate the horror found within. The infighting amongst those who were left would lead to desperation and that leading to acts which some of them would probably soon regret as their lives would be literally on the line.

If there was a downside to the film, it might be some of those moments that would focus on the passengers as they argued among themselves and yet on the other hand, without them, it would be a totally different movie. Though some might decry that they were overlong, those scenes service to build the tension in the film, they create not only a hostile atmosphere among the survivors but one that creates even more horror as they end up getting killed easier than they might have before had they started to work together, sometimes sacrificing each other in order to live.

Creepy, scary and completely effective on every level, this Japanese-produced science-fiction classic is just that, as it tells a story that not only finds these alien vampires killing everyone but telling them why as well.

4 out of 5

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