Based on a story by manga creator Junji Ito (Uzamaki), the supernatural horror series Tomie revolves around Tomie, a creature (demon?, ghost?) that has the appearance of a teenage girl and causes young men to fall in love with her, go crazy, kill her in some way, only for her body to resurrect itself and cause the poor sap further madness and torment.
Tomie: Re-birth (2001) is the third Tomie film- though each film stands on its own so you really don't have to see the previous films. It begins with a young artist named Hideo painting his girlfriend's portrait. After she slashes the picture, he flips out and kills her. Two of his friends, Shunichi and Takumi, help him dispose of the body. But, you cant keep that good ol' netherworld girlfriend named Tomie down, and she reappears, causing Hideo to commit suicide, Takumi to obsess over her, and eventually the possession of Takumi's girlfriend.
Now, I've seen the first Tomie film and found it to have decent concept and some creepy spots, but overall it came up short. Likewise for this sequel which has some really great moments that come a tad too late and too few to equal a solid bit of horror entertainment. The whole idea definitely has promise and possibilities; unfortunately, I think the problem lies in this recent trend of Ringesque Japanese haunting horror films to have a droll plodding pace and too much understatement. Tomie: Re-birth director Takashi Shimizu helmed the very popular Ju-On films, the first of which, by nature of its fractured narrative and multiple character perspective, helped break from the sleepwalking pace so many of these films have. But, Shimizu just lets the Tomie: Re-birth very slowly unfurl and it is like watching paint dry for about an hour until things start cracking along into a halfway decent finale.
As I said, the film does have some really great moments, which makes the dull scenes all that much more of a shame because there is a good horror film in there, somewhere. Shunichi becomes Tomie's obsessive compulsive lap dog, and he and his mother end up killing Tomie and having some fantastically surreal mother-son bonding while disposing of the body. Another bit of potential which is sadly only touched on for a couple of minutes, is the idea that since this evil can spawn from the smallest piece left around, there can be multiple Tomie's, both of whom want control over the boy they have set out to ruin. Hell, that concept alone is good enough to merit a remake. Give me the money and I'll remake it with the Olsen twins as dual dueling Tomie's. I'd be a gazillionaire.
The DVD: Ventura
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Soft. Soft. Soft. Soft. Soft. I fell the need to repeat that because it is really, really soft. I mean, rub your eyes, polish your glasses, call your optometrist and make and appointment to see if you've got cataracts, soft. Now, it isn't really uncommon for a Japanese v-cinema release to be a little bit fuzzy in the image department. It is just one of the pitfalls of lower budgeted cinema. However, as a fan, I gotta' say this transfer was so soft it had my eyes hurting. Really, the whole film falls under this haze and the colors, contrast, and, naturally, the sharpness are seriously weakened.
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1. Japanese language with optional English subtitles. The sound is good. Dialogue is a bit on the average side. The subtle atmospheric fx are well presented. The score is pretty forgettable. The mix is pleasant enough. Can't complain too much about it, but I also cannot think of any ways it blew me away or impressed me.
Extras: Chapter Selections— Trailers for Tomie, Tomie: Replay, Tomie: Re-birth, Tomie: Another Face and Tomie: Forbidden Fruit. Story Board/Film and Special Fx Comparison (22:21).— Interviews with the director and cast (13:08).
Conclusion: Well, the price is low enough that most Asian horror nuts may want to check it out. But, since I find the film itself to have a few drawbacks and the image quality annoying, so I'd say it is a perfect weekend rental. Hell, pick up some of the other sequels and make it a Tomie weekend.