Film:
DVD:

Written by Takao Nitta, based on the manga by Junji Ito
Directed by Higichinsky
Cinematography by Gen Kobayashi
Starring: Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, Shin Eun Kyung, Keiko Takahashi, and Ren Osugi

Features:

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Trailer
  • Character camera footage

Released byElite Entertainment
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes.

Based upon the odd and eerie manga by Junji Ito, Uzumaki is a disturbing and intriguing tale of a town haunted by the spiral. A small seaside town called Kurozou is built around a lake with secrets. The inhabitants start coming under the influence of a strange, compulsive fascination for spirals. This fascination manifests in differing ways for each individual, like the potter who starts to create pots with spiral forms, but in every case, the situation builds until sanity is not even a memory, and life is a barrier preventing the afflicted from perfect union with the uzumaki.

Our heroine is Kirie, a schoolgirl, and her childhood friend Shuichi, who is originally the only one who knows something strange and awful is going on. Strange things start to befall Kirie’s school chums, such as hair that reaches awesome heights and a snail-transformation, while at the same time, the adults of Kurozou face their own deadly fascinations with the ubiquitous, hidden spirals that are everywhere—in fingerprints, clouds, crematory smoke, even inner ears.

The film is a masterpiece of subtle creepiness and the unheimlich, even when things are going blatantly wrong and people are dying. The way the director and cinematographer can make a snail look scary is a mark of masterful direction and stage-setting. Some moments are quite disturbing and even sickening, but that contrasts with and even adds to the genuine eeriness of the piece.

The special features are interesting, if sparse: we get a behind-the-scenes featurette/set of interviews that focuses on our nubile heroine, the digital camera footage supposedly shot by Shuichi’s father, and the trailer. It would have been nice to have had access to PDFs of the original manga for comparison, an interview with a specialist of Japanese horror, an interview with a psychiatrist about the importance of disorientation and madness in the film, or even an interview with a sociologist who could talk about the role of insanity and the uncanny in horror and/or horror in modern arts and letters. But we’re pleased with what we have.

The film’s sound and video are very nicely produced. There are a few scenes that are intentionally moody and dark, but that’s a choice of the director, not an artifact of old film or shoddy digitalization. The soundtrack does a good job of supporting and intensifying the action, with good crisp voices and effective sound effects. The English subtitles nicely translate the action for those of us so simple as to not know Japanese.

If you enjoy a good horror film, especially in the eerie, understated Japanese way of Ringu, you’ll enjoy Uzumaki. It’s also a natural choice for fans of Japanese culture and manga, as well as anyone who just appreciates good filmmaking. Not just another way to cash in on the success of the recent Ring films, this is still another unsettling installment to world horror films and a good way to enter the atmospheric, tragic world of Japanese horror specifically. You will learn what the “uncanny” really means.

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