Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, Eun-Kyung Shin, Keiko Takahashi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Horror
From the land that brought us RINGU (The Ring) comes UZUMAKI (Spiral). The inhabitants of a small Japanese seaside town come under the influence of a strange force that causes an obsession with spiral forms. One by one, th... more »
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Spirals, spirals everywhere
TastyBabySyndrome | "Daddy Dagon's Daycare" - Proud Sponsor of the Lit | 08/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A small Japanese seaside town, Kurozou, has been plagued by strange happenings as of late. It began with minutia, manifesting itself in the form of obsession with a shape, the Uzumaki, and has gradually growing. Yes, it comes in other sizes, smoke in the form of the spiral and within madness seems to infest others, and the bodycount has grown with it.
And Kirie, a young schoolgirl, sees it transpiring all aorund her.
First she notices the difference in her best friend's father, with him going from productive to obsessive to downright bizarre. And then, after an incident with form-fitting flesh into a washing machine, it begins to take apart the town as a whole. And it all hinges, somehow, on the spirals appearing everywhere.
While this movie was definitely shot on a budget, I liked the presentation of the tale. In a short span of time it manages to take Uzumaki Volume 1 ( by Junji Ito - read it if you haven't) and details it, oftentimes short story by short story, until it's a workable piece of film. In fact, it manages to go through many of the minute details a Graphic Novel can skip, adding in day-to-day living in small sequences of frames and thereby thickening the terror to come. That means that a lot of time is spent exploring Kirie and the people around her, giving a face to those victimized by is going to come, and that's something I enjoyed. One minute you're strolling with the cares of a teenager on your shoulders, and the next minute you'd find those not-so-normal snails crawling up the side of your school. O, yeah.
Since I made a comment on the budget, I also feel the need to say that I was honestly surprised by some of the effects that the movie presented. The atmospheric setting was lovely, with the groundwork darkening as the movie goes forward and tiny things going a long way in making shivers run the spine. Imagery sitting out of the corner of one's eye, little spirals appearing in the air and in water running down the sidewalk, deepen the tale and make it tasty. So, I was pretty happy with a lot of that. I was also happy with the way people could be taken and made almost monstrous with only hints of visuals, thereby making the curse all-the-more real. And the hair scene from the Graphic Novel, not to mention Jack-in-the-box, was interestingly placed into the movie.
All that said, the movie doesn't really tell a complete story (for readers, it only covers Volume 1) and might be a little confusing and thereby lessened if watched without reference. So, before seeing this, I'd recommend reading Uzumaki Volume 1 (Junji Ito) to give it a little more oomph. It helps to provide more detail, making this random string of curses brought by the spiral into something of groundwork, and it also gives the viewer an option of completing the tale by adding in two other volumes. I'd also not recommend it to someone expecting a pace that is ominous, because the movie doesn't really work like that. It works on a subtle level, building toward the bizarre.
That added, I personally found the movie a lovely trip and would recommend it to those that like horror on a budget. Anything that makes me distrust my own fingerprints is a good thing.
Bizarre and frightening
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 12/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"U...ZU...MA...KI! Which, according to the sources, is Japanese for "spiral." Is it ever! I used to think Wisconsin was the weirdest place on the planet since any region that offers up Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer as sons of the soil certainly raises eyebrows. After watching this prime example of J-horror, I now know that the dairy state can't hold a candle to the warped imaginations residing in the Land of the Rising Sun. Now I don't think Junji Ito--the guy responsible for creating Uzumaki as a manga, or Japanese comic book--has ever engaged in the sort of behavior that made Gein and Dahmer famous, but after watching the film adaptation of his work I'm starting to wonder exactly what he eats. I wonder what he drinks, too. Maybe there is something in the water over in Asia? Whatever it is, they ought to pass it out for free in Hollywood's corridors of power. J-horror is starting to make serious inroads into the United States as fans abandon in droves the formulaic straight to video slasher retreads in favor of the hyperimaginative, over the top gory Japanese shockers. The only criticism I have regarding these films, "Uzumaki" included," is that Japanese pop cultural references in the films don't transfer over to English speaking audiences.
Something tells me I'm missing a lot of what's going on in "Uzumaki." Nevertheless, the film is still a massively entertaining, sometimes campy excursion into the deepest recesses of utter weirdness. The story centers on a young schoolgirl named Kirie Goshima (Eriko Hatsune) and her increasingly bizarre experiences in the small town of Kurozucho. Our young heroine, we soon learn, lives alone with her sculptor father while finishing up high school. Her mother passed away when Kirie was much younger, a difficult situation greatly eased by the presence of Shuichi Saito (Fhi Fan), a taciturn youth whose sole redeeming personality trait seems to be his fondness for Kirie. Saito is always distant and sort of odd, but he's even more so as the movie opens because he notices something is not right with his father Toshio (Ren Osugi). Dad quit his job in order to spend time collecting items shaped like a spiral, or items with spirals painted on them. He even eats food with a spiral design, and tends to get a tad cranky when his son and wife Yukie (Keiko Takahashi) ask to many questions. In one alarming scene, he even spins his eyeballs in a spiral pattern. Kirie learned about his odd habits after running into the man one day filming a snail, with special attention paid to its shell, in an alley. Apocalyptic weirdness rapidly ensues.
By the time Toshio takes his life in a particularly spiral inducing way (watch and see how), the town is starting to descend into chaos. When the authorities cremate Toshio's remains, the ashes drift up into the sky and form a giant swirling spiral that horrifies everyone who witnesses the phenomenon. The pattern, in fact, begins appearing everywhere: in the clouds, on sidewalks, in the very camerawork through which we see the proceedings. Ultimately, human beings morph into giant snails, a girl at Kirie's school shows up sporting a spiral coif the size of Mount Everest, and various individuals physically assume a painful looking corkscrew shape. Yukie Saito, Shuichi's mother, goes insane after her husband's death. She spends her time in the hospital systematically removing anything remotely resembling a spiral from her body--including fingertips and her inner ears. What the heck is going on in Kurozucho? That is a question the film never attempts to address. We do catch a few snippets of information about an ancient religious cult uncovered by a reporter intrigued with the demise of Toshio and the subsequent shocking events in the town, but it isn't enough to explain how things turned so weird so fast. Nor is it enough to figure out why the problems started when they did. All we know is that Kirie and her boyfriend better get out of town fast if they wish to avoid the horrific effects of Uzumaki.
I generally enjoyed the film even though I often didn't have a clue as to what was going on. The best element of the film is the beautiful Eriko Hatsune in the role of Kirie. She's a charming actress whose performance adds a stabilizing influence to the insanity unfolding all around her. Aside from Hatsune, too much happens that is just plain noggin' scratching bizarre. What's with the kid that keeps popping out of nowhere to harass Kirie whenever she is coming home from school? Beats me. That little subplot adds nothing to the larger film and goes nowhere in a hurry. Too, I would like an explanation concerning those kids standing in the hallway, or the kids I thought I saw walking backwards in the background. How does this relate to the ever increasing presence of the spirals? I'll admit these eerie scenes--seemingly thrown into the story in an offhand way--add much to the creepy atmosphere of the film, but they also serve to muddy a lot of the film's plot. I'm not the sort who needs every little thing explained in minute detail, but even I like to have solidity from time to time. That's why I think there are elements in the film that don't translate over to an American audience.
The few extras on the disc do little to shed light on this mysterious film. A behind the scenes featurette, the most likely candidate for concrete answers, consists of scene set ups and a short talk with Eriko Hatsune in which the girl answers questions about her favorite spiral shaped foods! Unfathomable as it is, "Uzumaki" makes up for its shortcomings with good gore, nice camerawork, and an idea taken straight out of the Twilight Zone. I recommend it highly for these reasons alone.
A brilliant nightmare
TastyBabySyndrome | 07/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Thank goodness this finally made it to US distribution, hopefully it will add to the audience. "Uzumaki", or "Spiral" is a unique vision. The movie is from a Japanese comic, and the story is much more extensive than appears here. The source is probably unknown to most in the US, but that doesn't really matter.There are images in this film that are absolutely stunning. I would have to rank the subtle appearance of spirals in the sky over the shoulders of the main characters as one of the most memorable effects ever, it certainly shook me. It's brief and not immediately noticeable, and when the scene shifts the first time through, the after effect is earthshaking . . . did I really see that? You knew the film was creepy going in, and it's not the first foreshadow of things going out of control, but it cannot be disregarded as anything but a crack in reality beyond that point, clouds don't do that! Now you know where you're at, and the rest of the film can be accepted. It's a wonderful trick, not the first time it's been done (there's a similar scene in "Close Encounters"), but it shows the film maker is a student of the craft and can apply lessons learned with cunning.The film would be fun enough just with the idea and the visuals involved, but the leading characters are wonderfully played and add a great deal of depth. I really liked the young girl, she exemplifies everything that should be about the heroine in a horror flick; beauty, intelligence, innocence, love. The actress is an absolute doll, but there is real substance to her part. You know her, what she thinks, what her life is all about to this young age, the tragedy of her mother's death, and her deep relationship with her friend. It wasn't necessary to have such a character in a horror film like this, she could have been just a standard type, not much much different than Steve McQueen in the "Blob". Well done indeed.For a few days after I first saw this film, I began to notice spirals everywhere around me, and I still smile when I see one . . . uzumaki, I whisper to myself."
A delightful and disturbing film
Michael L. White | Westland, MI United States | 06/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Putting all reason aside you exchange / what you got for a thing that's hypnotic and strange / the spiraling shape will make you go insane..." Those lyrics from They Might Be Giants' song "Spiraling Shape" kept swirling through my head while I watched Higuchinsky's UZUMAKI. While there's nothing overtly terrifying about UZUMAKI--no hordes of millipedes, death curses, or giant monsters--the film proves far more unsettling in its simple overt creepiness.
Based on manga by Junji Ito, UZUMAKI relates the tale of a Japanese village plagued by spiral shapes. Off kilter from its opening, our first encounter with the spiral shape comes when Kirie (Eriko Hatsune) find her friend Shinuci's father videotaping a snail. Kirie and Shuichi (Fhi Fan), our protagonists, try to maintain their sanity (and their linear shapes) as the world goes mad around them. The swirls of clouds, sushi, fingerprints, and washing machines threaten to undo them.
A delightful and disturbing film, UZUMAKI is skillfully directed by Higuchinsky who does a brilliant job keeping everything in UZUMAKI off kilter as things threaten to spin out of control."