Sunday, October 14, 2012

Uzumaki (Spiral)

Japanese horror films are a mixed bag. There are some that successfully mix the bizarre aspects of what that culture finds scary and a decent story, like Ringu, Ju-On and Dark Water. Then there are the ones that are just bizarre and have no story, like Suicide Circle and Uzumaki.

The story, or what I could make of it, is that a small town surrounding a lake is slowly going insane; its townsfolk becoming obsessed with spiral shapes. One man quits his job to begin collecting everything he can get his hands on with the design on it. When he dies (after his eyes begin to spiral out of control) he is cremated and his ashes create an ominous spiral cloud in the sky that points toward the lake at the town's center. From that point on everyone in the town goes nuts. People begin to look at their fingerprints in awe, one girl's hair becomes a mountain of spirals, people begin to take on the forms of snails and people's bodies twist and contort into elongated spiral shapes. Only one girl seems to not be affected by the epidemic, and a cop begins to dig into the history of the town to unravel the mystery.
Well, I thought the film worked for the first 40 minutes. It has nice buildup, wonderful and creative cinematography and convincing performances. The subtle CGI work (this film was made on a miniscule budget) worked wonders to build suspense (with clever little spiral shapes appearing in the background of certain scenes) and it was creepy to boot.

Once the entire town goes crazy the film performs a 9.5 swan dive into the pool of crapsville. No explanation as to why these events are taking place are given, just a hint that there was a cult or something that hung out at the town's lake way back in the day and it had something to do with serpents. A scene in a hospital where a woman talks to a disembodied head that tells her that she should eliminate the spiral cochlea within her ear was particularly laughable and cheesy, as is the rest of the film. The image of the girl with the Mount Everest of spiral hair was another silly addition. It's weird for the sake of being weird, and it offers nothing to tie all the oddities together into a cohesive story.
The film is based on a popular manga in Japan, and is an adaptation of the first of the three volumes. From what I've read online, the first volume of the comic gave a basic explanation for things and expanded on them in the following books. We get none of that here. Just slimy snail people, twisted bodies and some light gore involving a violent hit and run scene (the eyeball bit was nasty!). It's boring, uninteresting and hokey. The director tries to keep it afloat with sweet visuals, but after a while that wasn't enough to stop me from falling asleep (it took me 4 days to watch it all the way through). And worst of all... THE FILM JUST ENDS! It's like they either ran out of money or got sick of the film itself and gave up on it. LAAAAAAAME!

If you like these types of movies that are filled with strange imagery and zero story then by all means check it out. If you're looking for something entertaining and scary just rent Ringu.

1.5 out of 5

*written 7/6/04

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