“This town is driving me insane!”
The Scoop: 2000 NR, Directed by Higuchinsky and starring Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinake Saeki and Eun-Kyung Shin
Tagline: No tagline.
Summary Capsule: A tiny cursed coastal town in Japan suffers the horrific power of the spiral, presumably including those pens that are spinning tops and write in spirals.
Kyle’s rating: The book is always better!
Kyle’s review: I’m not sure what made me pick up the first volume of the collected Uzumaki, Junji Ito’s incredible horror manga. What made me finally put it down was a newfound fear of spirals, anything that looked like a centipede, and a creaking sound emanating from my attic which I ultimately learned was SATAN HIMSELF!!!! But that’s a story for another time.
Uzumaki the manga (a fancy way of saying “Japanese comic book”) is available here in the United States in three volumes of reprints, with the third and final volume being released a few months from now. If you want to experience a bizarre yet beautiful phantasmagoria that will repulse you even as it impresses you with a wealth of creativity and dedicated research, I strongly suggest you check out the books first and foremost. If you never learned to read, or you love the books and want to see how it all translates to the screen, then it’s worth checking out the film adaptation of Uzumaki. But if you really dig the manga (as I do) then be prepared for disappointment. But if you’re illiterate, have a bad memory, or just skipped to this part of the review already because you just hate to read, hey, seek out this film and check it out! It’s killer!
Okay, so there is this hot young schoolgirl (aren’t they all?) named Kirie Goshima (no relation to Mr. Mister) who lives in the tiny town of Kurozu-cho (there should be an accent over the first “o” but I don’t know how to do it!), located on the coast of Japan (I like to add extraneous information to sentences, via parentheses. Try it! It’s fun!). She has a boyfriend, Shuichi, but he’s real quiet, withdrawn, and probably likes The Cure and various depressing yet critically acclaimed music bands. However, we soon learn that he’s so down because his dad has gone from caring father to a nut job who has found a new hobby/obsession: spirals. This guy is crazy about spirals! He collects anything with a spiral on it, he watches snails carry their spiral-adorned shells around, and when there are no more spiral patterned fishcakes at dinner he spins his miso soup with a spoon and watches the spinning spiral that forms. Kind of reminds you of your crazy uncle who no one really talks about except at holidays, eh? Anyway, Shuichi is convinced that his dad has been contaminated by a vague curse on the town that somehow relates to the power of the spiral, and when all hell starts breaking loose and madness starts creeping in from the edges of reality it looks like Shuichi is right on the money. Too bad spiral go on and on, so escape is not really an option . . .
Unfortunately, my verbose and intelligent prose most accurately illustrates how cool a person I am, and only hints at how scary Uzumaki is. Even more unfortunate is that the film version of Uzumaki only hints at the plot developments of the manga, so that unless you go in knowing what’s going to happen because you already read the story, you won’t have a clue as to what’s going on. Very important deaths and clues look great in the film, yet unless I knew (as I did from the manga) who this person was or what this ***** was, I would be totally lost and my viewing experience would suffer and I would stuff myself with cheese popcorn, ruing the day I listened to the advice of Kyle, the most idiotic and overly-wordy of the Mutant reviewers. But, wait, I’m Kyle. This is weird.
But that brings me to the biggest strength of the film Uzumaki: the dreamlike presentation of everything. I taped this film off of a cable channel (thanks, Robert Redford) so it’s not like I had a crystal clear copy, but visually this film is pretty stunning. Kirie (the very attractive Eriko Hatsune) and friends look great running around Kurozu-cho, while the tiny town seems like a labyrinth, or a spiral maze! Dang it, do you seem how spirals are everywhere?!? There’s one behind you now! Run!
Also, the visual effects are effective. Without ruining any plot points, the body contortions, cloud patterns, and gruesome deaths are all incredible visually and morally repugnant (because they look so scary!). And don’t get me started on the human snails! Yep, everything looks great. It’s just that story that really brings it all down . . .
See, the manga is all story, and it is fantastic. I mean, it is thought provoking and terrifying and mind-numbingly creative. The movie, which had this great manga to work off of, seems to have just focused on the gross stuff and taken the plot development for granted, with the resulting film looking wonderful but not really telling any kind of story in-between money-shots of blood and death. The girl is hot and nothing beats seeing people get twisted into spirals, but if you really want to get scared and possibly mentally scarred for life (join me in the Uzumaki therapy group everything Thursday at the local YMCA) go find and read the manga. It’s creepy! Then, and only then, give this film a try.
- When Kirie and Shuichi ride on the bike through their little town and the moron cop jumps out of his booth to yell at them, the wanted poster that is held in close-up with accompanying music jump is of Junji Ito, the author and artist of the Uzumaki manga.
- During the first thirty minutes or so of the film, when the screen shows a portion of the sky pay attention to the clouds, because spirals are everywhere!
- In case it wasn’t obvious to you, in the car accident scene the poor young kid who get smacked by the car and subsequently twisted around the front right tire has become a bloody human spiral himself.
- Even though the manga was apparently drawn and released from 1998 to 1999, I believe the makers of the film adaptation only had access to the what basically comprises the first volume, because the movie is okay while it deals with the stuff that I read about in the first volume but once the volume’s content is used the movie kind of goes off on a few weird tangents, then ends strangely. Nothing from volume 2 appears anywhere. I have yet to read volume 3, but I can tell you the plots found in vol. 2 get even sicker and more stomach-churning than vol. 1, so it’s probably for the best that we were spared seeing people eating umbilical cord mushrooms on film.
- Stefan R. writes in, “Something that the guy from J-Pop cinema missed an interesting fact. Yes, the film was made while the manga was only half way through completion. Since that was the case, Junji Ito really didn’t know how to finish the manga yet so he felt that the writers and directors can come up with their own ending, and that the film, while taking elements and scenes from the manga, would really be the work of the film makers. The ending is out now in Pulp Magazine, but both the series and the publication of Pulp magazine just finished, so you could probably just wait for Vol. 3.”
- Apparently, director Higuchinsky has revealed that he “structured the movie Uzumaki as a puzzle, where certain objects and images provide clues to the ambiguous ending.” So if and when you watch this movie, pay attention!
- Junji Ito’s other horror manga work includes two volumes of Tomie, which like Uzumaki is widely available to buy at Virgin Records. Tomie is also very scary and has very disturbing visuals, though as Tomie was Ito’s first work it’s not as ground-breakingly horrific and creative as Uzumaki. But it’s still worth a look! Junji Ito knows his horror!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Dead Alive