MOON OVER TAO (1997)
Moon Over Tao is another inventive and fun fantasy flick mash-up from director/writer/designer Keita Amemiya and starring Zeiram’s Yuko Moriyama. This film takes place in feudal Japan and has sorcerer Suikyou (Toshiyuki Nagashima) and warrior Hayate (Hiroshi Abe) being tasked by their Lord to find the source of the swords that are being wielded by a group of local bandits and are made with a mysterious metal with almost magical properties. Meanwhile a young girl living in the forest named Renge (Sayaka Yoshino) witnesses the arrival of three strangely garbed women who seem to come from the sky. Abira, Marien and Kuzto (all played by Yuko Moriyama) are here from another world and are seeking to find an object that fell to Earth from deep space though each for their own personal reasons. In a struggle, Kuzto is killed, but before she dies, she entrusts Kenge with finding the object and keeping it’s contents contained. The fates of these characters are obviously destined to collide as the object contains the Makaraga, a destructive and nearly invincible creature that was created long ago by an alien race as a weapon, then confined by a device called the Tao and hidden on a desolate moon when it became apparent it was uncontrollable. The moon exploded sending the object crashing to Earth, where it was found by dark sorcerer Lord Kakugyo (Takaaki Enoki). It is the metal from the surrounding space rock that Kakugyo is using to make the swords to which our heroes seek and it is the creature in the object that Kakugyo unknowingly has possession of, that Renge and the remaining alien women must find… before it is unleashed! It’s no secret that our creature does get to see the light of day and indulge itself in some gruesome and blood soaked carnage.
This is Amemiya’s most solid directing effort up to this point, though Zeiram is still my favorite of his flicks. There is some solid drama here and some well-staged action especially once his alien killing machine gets loose. The FX are pretty good on a low budget. The massive creature is a combo of CGI and animatronics. The CGI is weak, but thankfully Amemiya uses the animatronic mock-up as much as possible, leaving the CGI for far shots of the creature and for making motions the large mock-up can’t create. The creature’s design looks like a combination of a crab and Tim Curry’s Darkness character from the movie Legend and is original and effective.
The cast are all solid with fans getting three times the Moriyama and young Sayaka Yoshino holding her own with all the grown-ups and never becoming the ‘annoying child’ character. Both Nagashima and Abe are noble heroes and Enoki is effective as the powerful yet, too smug for his own good Kakugyo. But the real villain is the monstrous Makaraga and it is a formidable adversary for both human and alien alike and it’s lethality is well portrayed by the previously discussed FX work.
Moon Over Tao is basically a fun and sometimes very gory combination of ancient Japan samurai flick and Sci-Fi monster movie and should provide a satisfying 90 minutes of entertainment for fans of both kinds of these flicks. Swords, monsters and magic, what more could one ask for? Another fun and uniquely designed guilty pleasure from Keita Amemiya.
3 hot Moriyamas!