Yellow Fangs is a horror film from Japan that is in the sort of animal revolt genre that the 1970s movie, Jaws, was also in. The success of Jaws lead to a huge number of films being produced featuring animals as the main villain. This film revisiting the concept and is the first movie to be directed by Sonny Chiba who has since acted in a huge number of martial art film, most notably Kill Bill.
The film was produced with his own money and it was bad news for him when the film did not perform well in the box office in 1990. Since that time the film has also failed to perform financially.
Most of the horror films that feature wild animals are entirely fictional, but Yellow Fangs is based on true events that took place in the early 20th century. The film tells the story of an enormous bear that was terrorising villagers in the mountains. Reports say that the bear weighed nearly 1000 pounds and stood up to 10 feet tall. The bear reportedly killed numerous people by crashing into their wooden cabins. All the rescuers would come to find was the occasional body part.
Another film that is based on a similar concept was The Ghost and the Darkness, which tells the story of man eating lions which terrorised the rail building operations in Africa in the 1890s.
Yellow Fangs tells the story of a character called Yuki and how her entire family are killed by a giant bear which is called Red Spots. She wants to go into the forest to kill the bear and avenge the death of a family but the town do not let her do this because only men are allowed into the forest. She ignores their advice and heads into the forest along with her dog, vowing to avenge her family’s death.
One of the most harrowing scenes in the film is where the character receives all that is left of her mother, a small bit of hair and a comb. The movie is filled with grisly scenes such as this and you can see why she wants to avenge her family’s death.
As you would expect with the film the character has a love interest, Eiji. He is an apprentice to a bear hunter and is interested in Yuki. He tries to discourage her from going on her quest to kill the bear but he fails to do this and she heads out on her journey. She fails to find the bear immediately and spends over a year in the mountains.
She eventually returns without the bear and soon after this has happens the bear comes to kill again. The movie is well shot during the attack scenes with the bear and they are exciting as well as frightening. Throughout most of the film clever camera work means that you cannot tell that there is just a man in a suit, but unfortunately in the final scene of the movie you can see clearly the reality of what is going on.
Unfortunately, the film is somewhat slow moving between the bear attack scenes and there is not a great deal of conflict between the characters to make it more interesting. There is a lot of dialogue but none of it is particularly stimulating and there is too much focus on the history of the bear hunters.
The romance between the two characters is uneventful and is of little interest but you do have a feeling that it is very sincere. There are moments in the film which seem very out of place, such as the moment when Yuki strips down to a bikini, this seems very out of place for 1914 and it feels as if this does not belong in the film. It is also unusual that soundtrack is made up of electric guitars and synthesisers which again give the film an unwarranted modern feel.
The film was a box office failure and Chiba faced hard financial times because of it. The DVD release of the film is a good transfer of the original. There are also some good additions such as inclusion of the trailer and a good gallery of stills.