Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock N Roll Ghost Story

It’s hard to know where this micro-budgeted and impressive little movie pitches itself. Supernatural thriller? Comedy? Documentary? Truth is, it’s all three and a lot more. A genuinely odd ride through the downtown clubs and back alleys of Tokyo, it showcases a range of musicians from the J-rock scene, and ultimately it’s the music that becomes the true star. There’s a lot to enjoy here; when you’ve got a fictional band called The Screamin’ Telstars played by genuine cult rockers The Neatbeats, crossed with a haunted amplifier, a touch of burlesque, a jive-talking devil and crazy gigs… well, if this movie doesn’t make you want to strap on a low-slung guitar, grease back your hair and become the next punk Elvis, there’s little hope.

The brilliantly named and ice-cool Mr Pan plays Tony, who’s down on his luck and lacking in enthusiasm for his band. After blowing his speakers at a show, he finds himself in an odd guitar store, where the spirit of an American blues musician called Peanut Butter, who’s locked in a battered old amp, begs to be bought and taken away. Sure enough, Tony soon starts playing like a god under the guidance of his spectral spirit, but of course nothing good comes for free, and pretty soon he’s being encouraged to kill the taunting frontman of their rivals, The Mad Reader Group. Desperate for stardom, Tony offers his soul to the demon, losing himself in an orgy of rock ‘n’ roll while finding it increasingly hard to keep his erratic behaviour, and his band, under control.

The performances are amateurish, the ghostly effects are sketchy and the alternating dialogue between Japanese and English can be a little distracting, but it matters not, all adding to the fifties sensibility with a large dose of rockabilly charm. The camera never stops moving, the clubs are drenched in neon, there’s a theremin on the soundtrack to herald the arrival of the ghost, and at a lean 77 minutes it’s not around long enough to get dull. This is the odd and eccentric introduction to an alternative music culture you’ve been looking for, and has cult stamped all over it.

Manabe Takashi
Darrell Harris
Tatsuji Nobuhara

Enrico Ciccu
Les Decidous Jr.
Ken Nishikawa
Mike Rogers

James Honeycutt
Mike Rogers

Raindance 25 Sep 2017

Posted by Rich Wilson

Falling in love with cinema after seeing Ridley Scott’s Alien at the age of nine years old, Rich has been obsessed with horror, westerns, martial arts and Japanese monster movies for the last 30 years. He has written for Q, Hotdog, Classic Rock, GoreZone and various websites, and is currently seeking a publishing house for his first novel.