As someone with a taste for short filmmaking, I’m always on the prowl to see what sort of unique, exciting short genre works are on the horizon. So when I stumbled upon the crowdfunding campaign for Gacha Gacha, a bizarro movie about a woman discovering a disgusting creature in a capsule toy by the director of the absolutely bonkers Australian slasher movie Cat Sick Blues, my interest was piqued.
Now, with Gacha Gacha’s Kickstarter in its final week (full disclosure: I donated nine dollars to the campaign), I reached out to Gacha Gacha director Dave Jackson to talk about collecting, tiny critters, and of course, gooey tanuki.
In your campaign, you mention that Gacha Gacha focuses on "the nightmare of obsession and the short-lived highs of being a collector." What made you want to make a movie about this theme?
Dave Jackson: I think it's something a lot of genre fans experience. It's certainly something I experience. Back in Australia, I had stacks of movies on my shelf that sat there for literally a decade just because I had to have them. It's an addiction and it's something I've tried to ease out of. Moving to Japan has helped because my minuscule apartment and a lack of space simply won't allow it. I'm particularly fascinated in the collecting of things that shouldn't be collectable. In his book Role Model, John Waters talks about collecting books based on movies and how delightful the concept is of collecting something utterly worthless. I'm totally on board with that, and I feel like in Japan there's a collector for everything, which is as delightful as it is terrifying.
You recently moved to Osaka, Japan, where Gacha Gacha takes place. How have your experiences living in Japan informed the film?
Dave Jackson: In every possible way. I wouldn't be making this had I not moved to Osaka. Just watching the mania of collecting, seeing the endless rows of gacha machines, the piles of empty capsules... all these images allowed the idea to form. There's also a focus on the loneliness of Japanese apartment life, which comes from actually living that life in a cramped little place. I love looking at all the enormous apartment buildings. Behind each window there's someone with their own unique existence and obsessions. I'm sure there's a few gacha maniacs that resemble the characters in Gacha Gacha's script.
The gooey monster you've shown off for Gacha Gacha is a grotesque, gooey tanuki. Why did you choose to use this particular mythical beast as the film's monster?
Dave Jackson: The giant testicles probably. They're just so ugly, strange, and iconic (the tanuki itself, not specifically its balls). They're also everywhere in Japan. It's hard to walk down a street without seeing one. When my parents were visiting, they asked me what a tanuki was. I said, "Just wait a moment." And sure enough, we walked past a tanuki statue in no time. They've crept into my subconscious by being constantly in my peripherals. It's also fun to try and make something that's already quite terrifying looking even more horrific.
The tanuki in Gacha Gacha is going to be stop-frame animated. Why is having the tanuki's animation be stop-frame important to you?
I'd like to say it's because I hate CGI and old effects rule and blah blah blah. But really, it's just because I don't know any other way to do it. That said, even if I did, I'd probably still stick with stop-frame. The films I grew up watching were packed full of stop-frame and it just has such a cool look. I respect the hell out of animators, especially those who create feature-length animations with tons of movement within each shot. The amount of work that goes into something like The Nightmare Before Christmas or a Jan Švankmajer film is beyond anything I could ever even begin to comprehend. The animation in Gacha Gacha is not a large part of the film. The creature itself is practically unmoving and there is only one short sequence of animation. I'm looking forward to attempting it, though!
Gacha Gacha is more of a cross-genre film than just strict horror, but it's clearly very horror inspired. What sort of elements are you drawing from the horror genre for Gacha Gacha?
Dave Jackson: I'm definitely drawing from my childhood diet of films that featured tiny, gross monsters. But I think in terms of tone and style, the slow, creeping sense of dread that you see in something like The Shining or Takashi Miike's Gozu is what I'm after. Though the horror isn't necessarily there in a traditional sense, the threat and unease is (hopefully) going to be there, beneath everything.
And finally, what's your favorite tiny-monsters-run-amuck movie?
Dave Jackson: A great question and very easy to answer. While I love pretty much all tiny monster movies from the Critters films to dreggy nonsense like Munchies and Hobgoblins, my absolute favorite—and legitimately one of my favorite movies of all time—is Gremlins 2. I watched both Gremlins films on loop as a kid, but the sequel has stuck with me more than the original. Joe Dante's direction is just so utterly unhinged in Gremlins 2. It's a film that does not care about anything except being as outrageous, loud, and obnoxious as possible. It's also incredibly smart as it tears apart everything in sight, including the original Gremlins. Rick Baker's puppets are phenomenal and a huge step up. I love how Baker gives each heavily featured gremlin a personality. I've watched Gremlins 2 hundreds of times and could easily watch it hundreds more without getting bored. It's a masterpiece of chaos and a film that could never exist outside of a specific, strange pocket of time.
To learn more about Gacha Gacha, visit the short film's official Kickstarter page.