Uzumaki

"Weak"

Uzumaki Review


Originally conceived as a manga graphic novel by Junji Ito, the new Japanese horror film Uzumaki doesn't survive the cinematic translation. Those expecting another meta-thriller like Hideo Nakata's popular Ring series and Kiyoski Kurosawa's Cure may find some haunting, Escher-like visuals and an appropriately disturbing apocalypse-bop finale, but this directorial debut from music video show-off Higuchinsky is all flash. Inattentive to genre basics like mood, suspense, creepy lighting (as opposed to boy band lighting), and character development, Uzumaki works on the level of visceral sideshow thrills: watch the snail people climb up a wall, see the human contortionist twist his body into a pretzel, see the hospital-bound grieving widow slice off her fingertips before doing battle with an insect predator. If it weren't cursed with the Charlie's Angels-short attention span video-trained directors have been bombarding us with, Uzumaki might be commended for its spate of bedazzling creature effects.

Anything goes in Asian horror, using basic plot scenarios to tap into feverish nightmare set pieces. Possessed by a bizarre supernatural force, the residents of a small seaside village become obsessive over spiral shapes and snail shells. A schoolgirl weaves her hair into a Medusa pattern, other children start taking on the characteristics of amphibian creatures, and there are a series of cult-induced suicides. Amidst this slow building carnage are a young couple (Eriko Hatsune and Fhi Fan) who consider eloping, but their Scooby Doo curiosity gets the best of them and they attempt to solve the mystery. All the makings of a first rate creepshow are there (consider John Carpenter's terrific In the Mouth of Madness as the American version), but Higuchinsky hasn't seen enough surrealist-nightmare Dario Argento movies and it quickly devolves into the attention-grabbing camera tricks that similarly undermined Michel Gondry's Human Nature. Unable to sustain mood, they go for high concept designs that might work in a three-minute video but grow quickly tiresome in a full-length feature.

Part of that might have to do with Uzumaki's beginnings as a comic book. On the animated page, Junji Ito wouldn't be required to provide nervous anticipation from one scene to another. Individual shots of the movie would work nicely as comic panels but become all about that surface prettiness (or ghastliness) on celluloid. When the young people ride through town on their bicycle, it's visually opulent but little more than that. It might as well be an advertisement for designer jeans. And sequences that should be frightening (like the hospital encounter with a creepy crawly insect) are so cut-up with black-and-white inserts, neon tints, and distracting cutaways to previous scenes that it fails to sustain any mood of its own. There is so much directorial muscle flexing (or "big dick directing", as Matt Zoller Seitz of the NY Press dubbed it after Paul Thomas Anderson's tame-by-comparison Boogie Nights) that the true horror is overshadowed by the true style.

Japan has been the last refuge of the genuine horror film. '70s and early '80s American pioneers of the form like George Romero, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and Sam Raimi have lost their touch or have stopped making movies altogether, though their influence in clearly felt on the new guard of Asian filmmakers. There's also a touch of Cronenberg, Lynch, and the aforementioned Argento. Stateside horror fans owe it to themselves to seek out this alternative to the now-tired Scream rip-offs that crowd our multiplexes. Uzumaki wouldn't make the ideal starting point, but fans of this particular subgenre might find it worthwhile. In its final montage of still-life death scenes, the film displays a morbid and intriguing fascination with bizarre crime scenes. It's too bad that Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer accomplished as much in its opening sequence and moved on from there. Hopefully, the Uzumaki series will too during its inevitable sequels.

Aka Spiral.



Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Thursday 10th November 1932

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 3.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Higuchinsky

Producer:

Starring: as Kirie Goshima, as Shuichi Saito, as Kyoko Sekino, Shin Eun-Kyung as Chie Marayama, Keiko Takahashi as Yukie Saito, as Toshio Saito, Denden as Officer Futada, Masami Horiuchi as Reporter Ichiro Tamura, Tarô Suwa as Yasuo Goshima, Tooru Teduka as Yokota Ikuo, Sadao Abe as Mitsuru Yamaguchi, Asumi Miwa as Shiho Ishikawa, Saori Nakane as Little Kirie, Yasuki Tanaka as Little Shuichi, Yuki Murakami as Yukky, Maki Hamada as Macky, Tomoo Fukatsu as Norio Katayama, Akira Matsuda as Yasuzo Oyama, Takuto Oyama as Himself, Hassei Takano as Kazuki Tsumura

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.