Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie Review: Uzumaki

Uzumaki
Rated 18 (According to the U.K. DVD release)
1 Slime
Copyright Lighthouse Pictures 2000

THE CHARACTERS

Kirie Goshima: The main character who finds herself in the middle of a curse that is infecting her town to the core. She’s basically uninteresting and is sort of boring to watch. When the movie ended, it’s not clear if she is alive or dead, so let’s just say she is trapped in bad movie limbo.

Shuichi Saito: Kirie’s boyfriend who can’t act his way out of a paper bag. I’ve never seen a more lifeless character before in my life. He’s body randomly twists up and crushes his body.

Kyoko Sekino: A popular girl at school whose main goal is to be the center of attention. She does this by curling her hair in spiral or it does it by itself; it’s not clear. Her life force is sucked out by her hair at the end movie after its grown too long or her hair got tangled up in a telephone phone and she starved to death unable to leave. You make the call!

Yukie Saito: Shuichi’s mother who doesn’t like her husband’s new hobby. After his death, she loses it and develops a nasty fear of spirals. In attempt to remove all spirals from her body, she drives a pair scissors directly into her head.

Toshio Saito: He is Shuichi’s father and all around town weirdo from what I can see (And in this town, that’s saying something) This guy is beyond obsessed with the uzumaki to the point of crushing and spinning to make a spiral shape inside of a washing machine. The image alone is worth a nightmare or two.

Reporter Ichiro Tamura: A reporter who took a serious interest in Toshio’s death. At one point, it seems like he reaches a conclusion of what the truth is in the entire town, but it killed when his car crashes. So basically, we never find out diddlysquat about what was going on in the film.

Yasuo Goshima: Kirie’s father, who becomes obsessed with making spiral pottery pieces throughout the movie. I’m not sure, but I think he drowned in Dragonfly Pond because I never saw him again in the movie.

Mitsuru Yamaguchi: He is Kirie’s stalker, nicknamed Jack-in-a-Box, because he likes jumping out of nowhere at very random times and spooking everyone. In an attempt to make Kirie remember him forever, he jumps in front of a car and becomes road kill. However, this doesn’t work because she never mentions him again and the movie seems to forget about him.

LESSONS LEARNED
+ Spirals can mess a person up.
+ Girls do not like the jump-out-and-surprise approach when you want them to like you.
+ Kids randomly stand against the wall with their heads down all the time in school.
+ Cigarettes are explosive.
+ Teenagers beat each other up right in front other people.
+ Snailism is now an official medical disorder.
+ A grown man can fit inside of a washing machine.
+ Seatbelts are not guaranteed to protect you when you crash at very slow speeds.

STUFF TO WATCH FOR
1 min – Stop the camera! I’m getting dizzy!
7 min – Darn those little sign stealing punks.
12 min – I think I just got hit with a subliminal message.
15 min – Can we move it along now?
25 min – I’m getting dizzy just looking at it.
31 min – What the hell…
34 min – Now repeat after me: EEEEEEWWWWWWWW!!!!
42 min – Just because you can hold a shot doesn’t mean you should.
44 min – The acting, it hurts!!!
45 min – What the hell is going with her eyes?!
51 min – A GHOST… or perhaps a camera crew member…
57 min – Holy *BLEEP*!
68 min – There’s an image that’ll last a lifetime.
74 min – Her voice is so shrill that it is shaking the camera!
76 min – Please don’t do that with the camera. I’m sick already.
82 min – That’s the face you are going to make?
84 min – Oh my God he actually showed some emotion. I’ve only heard rumors of that!
88 min – So here we go again? Screw that.

NOTABLE QUOTES
Kirie Goshima: Kurozu-cho, town of my birth. Let me tell you a story of a strangeness that happened there.

Shuichi Saito: [When he was younger after Kirie’s mother died] I’ll be your mother!
Kirie Goshima: [Younger] I don’t want a boy for a mother!

THE PLOT

Do spirals scare you? No, of course not; it’s just a line that goes around in circles for the most part. However, a manga came out that changed all of that called Uzumaki. The story is generally about a small coastal town that is cursed by the pattern: uzumaki/spiral. I won’t go into detail about the manga, but let me tell you one thing. Reading it will f**k with your brain! With such an extremely popular series, why not make a movie about it to cash in? Enter the Japanese 2000 film adaption also called Uzumaki. The film technically came before the end of the 3 volume series, so things are bound to be different. With such a freaky series and Japan’s love of crazy crap in their horror movies, you think that we would have one of the most terrifying movies to ever be created! Well…

Our film begins the camera spiraling around a dead body, with strangely seems to have a spiral around. Nothing like hammering the point in right away. The movie cuts to Kirie Goshima, our heroine, as she goes to meet up with boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, at the town entrance. We watch her run around for a while throughout the town in some strange shots that run long even after she left the screen. As she runs, she comes across a couple of strange people, like Mitsuru Yamaguchi who likes to jump out & surprise people and Toshio Saito, her boyfriend’s father who currently videotaping a snail shell for some reason. Remember, spiral!

Moving on ahead after a few random and pointless scenes (including one with a fruit vendor and a goofy sound effect), Kirie goes home to find Mr. Saito talking to her father, Yasuo Goshima, a craftsman who specializes in pottery. He’s videotaping her father at work, commenting on how pottery is the finest of all the arts and it is the truest and best representation of the uzumaki. He then asks for a bowl with his own uzumaki pattern, which Yasuo agrees to make, and then goes on a very weird rant about how the spirals are the greatest art (Make up your mind!) and that the potter is a great genius. Genius or not, I would have shoved that camera out of my face when he put it to my eyeball.

We are then treated to over 5 minutes of filler or character development (either way it is boring) before plopping us at Kirie’s school the following day. Kirie and one of her friend talk to each other for a while, passing by Yamaguchi who continues to pursue Kirie in order to make everyone jealous and a lot of people who are standing against the wall with their heads down. I’m not sure if this is some sort of school punishment or the director trying to be artsy, but regardless, it is just weird. The two of them walk along and the boy drops by them as they walk up the stairs, splattering against the floor, but yet with the boy dying with a smile on his face. Ah, so that’s where the opening image came from!

The two of them ponder what the hell just happened and why the hell he had the smile on his face when he died in the bathroom. Kyoko Sekino with her gang makes their grand appearance after some dramatic bathroom stall opening and explains to them that he was happy to die as long as he had everyone focus on him and it was the only he would be noticed. They also state that if they aren’t notice, it is better to be dead; how attention is wonderful; and Sekino ends it with saying how she now wants to be seen in the truest way possible. Something tells me they have their priorities wrong.

Kirie informs Shuichi about everything and he makes an assumption that root of the cause of all the weird things is the uzumaki. He feels it draws people into and that the whole town is cursed by it. He also explains about how his dad is been going over the edge recently, becoming obsessed with the spiral, collecting spiral objects, and holding up in his room staring at his collection. Kirie doesn’t believe him, so he invites her over to his house to show what’s going on.

They arrive to see Mr. Saito throwing a fit over losing this stuff. Shuichi confronts him about it and suddenly, his dad becomes rather nonchalant about it. He declares he doesn’t need his stuff and that he can make his own uzumaki. Then in very creepy move, he starts spinning his eyes around and around separately. Try imagining that for a second. You can thank me later for that image you just got.

Naturally, Kirie is rather out of the next day after seeing that… or perhaps it is just bad acting. I can’t tell with her. She’s at school in class now, when one of the students, Katayama, comes in later, soaking wet from the rain outside and covered in… snot… well I hope its snot. He talks rather slowly, walks really slowly, something seems to be growing on his back and he only comes to school when it rains. Why do I bring this up when it doesn’t seem important? Oh you’ll find out!

After that gross moment and a jump attack from Yamaguchi, Kirie goes to drop off the bowl her father made for Mr. Saito. We then have one of most boring ass moments ever as she slowly makes her way to the house and looks it to see if anyone is home. It’s dull beyond all belief and if it wasn’t for the admittedly kind of spooky atmosphere and how the scene is shot, I fall asleep! Thankfully, Shuichi and his mother, Yukie Saito, arrive on the scene just as we hear Kirie scream. They find her terrified on the floor, wondering what could be the matter when she points out the washing machine nearby. They approach it and look in it and… we see nothing but their reactions, which are a dull expression from the boy and a horrified look from the mother. Someone call the acting police and report Shuichi!

The next day is the funeral for Mr. Saito and they cremate him. As the smoke rise, Mrs. Saito screams in horror and points to the sky. Right above the smokestack is the smoke from the body, which is turning into an uzumaki shape. She faints and is rushed to the hospital, while the smoke then mysteriously spirals down into Dragonfly Pond, in the heart of the city and behind Kirie’s home. While this sounds interesting, this will not impact the story in anyway. Tough cookies.

At the hospital, a reporter named Ichiro Tamura meets with Shuichi and Kirie to talk about Mr. Saito. He tells them about how he came to his office one day wanting to know more about history of the town and was on and on about uzumaki. Shuichi decides to show him the video that his father was taping. It shows him setting the camera down next to the washing machine as he gets in it. As the tape goes on, we hear very disgusting sounds, but have no clear view of what happened. Ichiro decides to take the video with him to investigate the matter further when he discovers that before Mr. Saito got into the machine, he placed a small round mirror in it.

Things just seem to get even stranger in the town and trust me; it is really getting strange now. Kirie’s dad is getting very obsessed over making more of pots using clay from the pond; Mrs. Saito develops an extreme fear of spirals to the point of cutting off her fingertips; a bully that was harassing Katayama earlier is starting to drink tons of water and has something growing on his back now; and Sekino has her hair done up in spirals, which makes her hair look like it’s made of black party streamers, catching the attention of everyone.

As insanity continues to prosper, Tamura continues to investigate the meaning behind the mirror and everything. During which, he discovers that ancient mirrors were discovered in the Dragonfly Pond and that means… I got no idea. But whatever it is, it must be big! He calls Shuichi and Kirie meet him by Dragonfly Pond to tell them what he discovered. On their way there, Yamaguchi shows up and tell her that she’ll never forget about him, even after all the rejections. He jumps in front of Tamura’s car and is promptly run over, crushed and jammed up in the front wheel (Feel free to imagine that). Also, Tamura’s head smashes into the window, killing him, and making a spiral shape on the window. The car must have lousy seatbelts because he was wearing one.

With those nice morbid images behind us, we see Kirie and Shuichi talking to each other next to the pond trying to recover from all that later that night. She so scared by all the events that Shuichi has to hold her tightly and promises to protect her… in the most monotone voice you ever heard. She’s so lucky to have an emotionless robot. Also during the night, a huge millipede tries crawling inside Mrs. Saito’s ear. She flips out and is suddenly, in a very artsy moment, bombarded with strange visions of her dead husband who tells her that there are spirals inside of her body. What he means by that is that Cochlea, the sensor for sound in one’s ear, is shaped like a spiral and he points it out to her. Horrified, she takes a pair of scissors (Why is that still in her room after she cut off her fingertips?) and stabs it into her ear. We don’t see this, but the scream from outside in the hallway reassures that she did just that.

After the funeral, her body is burned and creates, again, another spiral in sky. However, this time, her horrified face appears in the smoke as well. Her face actually moans and then another gigantic face (Mr. Saito?) appears and swallows her whole! What the f**k indeed. As all of this going, the town is really going nuts. I know, big shock right? Well, it’s so strange that the news has come to cover what’s going on in town. Apparently; people are turning into giant snails (See why I brought Katayama now) and Sekino’s hair has stretched far out and made gigantic spirals that seem to be hypnotizing people. It’s an image that has to be seen to believe.

Shuichi and Kirie decide it’s time to get out of town now (Nah, really?), but decide to get her father first. They look inside his workshop but can’t find him. Then in an extremely bizarre moment, Shuichi’s legs start twisting up into a spiral. Don’t look me; I got no clue where that came from. However, I got to love the fact that he makes no expression at all when he sees that. I’ve seen statues with more life than him.

He then dies and Kirie holds in body in agony, I think, she’s not that good of actress either. Then out of nowhere, his head does a 360 and he comes back to life with pale eyes. Oh no! He’s been possessed! She tosses him away, but he closes in on her as Castlevania music plays in the background and he urges her to join him in the uzumaki. He lunges at her, she screams, and THEN… the movie cuts away. Of course! It’s not like something interesting was happening or anything.

The movie then shows us a couple scenes of the town where Sekino’s hair has been cut up a telephone pole and her body decaying, the TV reporter’s van crashed and her eyes stretched out of their sockets, a dead police officer with a spiral shaped hole in his eyes which happened he was looking inside the barrel of his gun for a spiral, Shuichi’s twisted up body in the house with Kirie around, and Mr. Goshima’s pale that he collects clay floating in Dragonfly Pond. Then the movie closes out with Kirie saying she would like to tell us the story of her town, the same phrase she spoke to us at the beginning. What happened here?! Is she dead? Where is she telling us this story? What happened to the town? Why is the town cursed by uzumaki?! WHAT’S GOING HERE?!

What the hell just happened?! Where did this movie go so wrong? The director had one of the best horror manga ever to be created and yet he made it into one of the most surreal and nonsensical movies I’ve seen! It’s not scary or terrifying, just creepy and weird as hell. Yes, the movie made before the end of the manga so I could understand why the ending is different and I could forgive the movie if it wasn’t completely faithful to the source material. As long as they can make a scary, disturbing movie about spirals, I could dig it. But… ugh.

The plot of could have been better suited for a TV series considering all the stuff that happens in the movie and in the manga. The acting is terrible. I know I can’t understand them and I’m just watching the subtitles; but the line delivery; emotion, and facial expressions of all the cast members really made it hard to take people seriously. I think Shuichi is a robot since he has no expression on his face for almost the entire movie. There’s also inappropriate music and sound effects through the film that really sound out of place. Finally, we got a lot of moments here and there that come off as pretentious and silly. Sure, they are shot well but they don’t really add to the atmosphere of the film.

On the plus side, the film is shot well and we occasionally get a good artsy moment there. The atmosphere manages to make this movie at least creepy like stated before a few times. The film also recaptures a couple of moments from the manga well, like with the crazy hair. Speaking of hair, the special effects look decent and also add to some of the creep value. While I did say the acting was terrible, the reporter character was actually pretty decent and I will give him a nod for doing alright.

Still, this is a major disappointment. I’ll admit that I am not a huge fan of the manga series, especially the ending, and I wasn’t really expecting this movie to knock my socks off or anything, but this is just underwhelming. This movie is not scary and that is really sad. Though, it still has enough good moments to at least warrant a watch.

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