We enter the second half of the our ongoing mini-series, diving into the rich history of tokusatsu right here in America.
Toku Tuesday, Volume 2 Issue 7:
4 Toku Films of the Last Decade You Need to Check Out (Again)
I title this entry this way because, chances are if you’re reading this, you have already seen these movies at least once. However, you most likely never thought of them as tokusatsu, after all, most people associate Power Rangers and Kamen Rider to the term and generally not the likes of Star Trek or Star Wars. All I ask is that you keep the definition of “tokusatsu” in mind when reading this short list:
Tokusatsu (特 撮?) is a Japanese term that describes any live-action film or television drama that usually features superheroes and makes considerable use of special effects (tokusatsu literally translates as “special effects”).
Ok, get your DVD/Blu-Ray players ready for some awsome American Toku (by year of release)…
Pitch Black (2000)
A bit of a cult classic, this sci-fi horror event was our first introduction to the badass, shiny-eyed outlaw Richard B. Riddick. The story has a group of unlucky space travelers crash landing on a desolate planet just before an everlasting eclipse that cycles roughly every 2o years, unleashing a swarm of carnivores that live and hunt in the dark. As if the shadow creatures weren’t enough, these people have the ruthless killer Riddick to deal with. But that’s the fun, because even though Riddick is as big a threat to these people, he’s the only one who can save them! The film is brilliant, and Vin Diesel’s Riddick is one of the best anti-heroes to hit the mainstream in a long time; the two sequels (Dark Fury and Chronicles of Riddick) were made solely based on the strength of this character. Say what you will about the third entry in the franchise, but there is no doubt that Pitch Black is a solid horror, sci-fi excursion.
Dawn of The Dead (2004)
Horror remakes tend to be hit or miss. This is most definitely a hit. This film does not let up much from the hard hitting opening to the gut-wrenching ending and in to the twisted credit roll. Directer Zack Syder would go on to direct 300 and Watchmen, but in 2004, he was an unproven big-budget film-maker and to make his debut by remaking the horror equivalent of a old jazz standard so incredibly well – excuse me, he made George A. Romero’s masterpiece BETTER, how that’s even possible is beyond words – is simply, well, beyond words. I mean, zombies that run? Fast?! Sniping Jay Leno and Rosie O’Donnell for kicks? Classic…
This one has a lot going for it if you can manage not to puke watching it. The eagle-eyed viewer can see many an easter egg riddled throughout this simple monster movie. Those easter eggs and the viral marketing that accompanied the road to release basically weaved Cloverfield into the universes of J.J. Abrams’s other properties (namely Alias and Lost). Continuity is almost always always fun. The “shaky cam” technique turned many away sick, but I found it an interesting way to tel an otherwise pointless story. Really, we get only about two good looks at “Clovie,” and the film is really about a guy trying to rescue his girlfriend. That’s right, if you missed it, the movie really has nothing to do with the giant… thing wrecking Manhattan. but that’s ok, because all the havoc this thing is causes make for a compelling backdrop for a simple test of love story.
District 9 (2009)
I can’t say enough about how good this movie is, so I won’t even bother to try expressing how I feel about it. Just see it if you haven’t already. If you have seen it – see it again. Period.