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Primarily, we meet childhood friends Kirie and Shuichi. Kirie is your average schoolgirl, Shuichi is her sullen, quiet, nerdy boyfriend. One day Kirie notices Shuichi's father on the street with his video camera, huddled over a snail, transfixed by its conical shell. Shuichi tells her of his fathers strange obsession with spiral shapes. Shuichi's father also visits Kirie's father, who makes pottery, and sounds off maniacally about the wonders of the spiral being the ultimate form. But it is not just Shuichi's father noticing the patterns, they are everywhere, and some kids at school begin to become oddities, like having too curly hair, or some begin to move slowly, covered in slime. When Shuichi's father commits suicide, Shuichi's mother begins to be obsessed too, removing all spirals from her sight, including her fingerprints. A local reporter tries to figure out why the entire town is transfixed with spirals, and things become so intense it draws national media coverage. Soon, there are vortexes appearing in the sky, tornado shapes over the lake, and human like snails crawling over the buildings. Will Kirie and Shuichi be able to escape before they too fall prey to this strange affliction?
The Film: Uzumaki (2000, aka Spiral, Vortex, Whirlpool) is a very unique, fairy tale, horror, fantasy film. But, unlike a fairy tale it is utterly pointless and devoid of any parable message... Based on comic by Junji Ito, it is the film Terry Gilliam would make if he was obsessed with spirographs.
Uzumaki is director Akihiro Higuchinsky's first feature and is quite an impressive one. Although I will probably sound off on (what I thought to be) the films negative, lacking points, be assured this is a very entertaining, loony concept film... The supernatural horror film has been all the rave in Japan for the past few years, and this film presents one of the more unique, Twilight Zone-ish entries into the genre. The direction and pacing is very much like a Peter Jackson, Tim Burton, or Jean Pierre Jeunet film, off kilter angles, expressive acting, a very off kilter comic book style. All the horror or suspense is counter balanced by its kitschy direction, expressive acting, weird angles, and bouncy cheesball music.
Although its style makes it a nice piece of eye-candy, when combined with the thin plot, it also becomes a drawback. The oddball, unreal style lessens the suspense and scares. Even the most basic horror plotting can prey on someones primal fears, whether it be Jaws or Halloween, but the concept of spirals and strange spiral related surreal happenings isn't the least bit scary. It just isnt something that inspires fear. While Uzumaki offers up unexpected shocks and grisly deaths, there is no substance, no deep seated, identifiable fear, its subject is just people obsessed with spirals and spiral-y stuff starts happening, nothing more. On one hand it sort of preys on the unexplainable, on the other its so far out there, it plays to your fears and then dilutes them. Thankfully, there is absolutely no explanation given for what is going on, why these events are happening- they just are. There is really no other way to tell the story, though, so the fun is just in sitting back, admiring how keen the visuals are, all the little tricks, and trying to spot all the spirals that are hidden throughout the film. In the end, it all means squat. But, you will be hammered over the head with style, and you will be entertained.
The DVD: Universe, REGION 3 encoded DVD.
Picture- Widescreen. Extremely soft picture, with lackluster contrast, and overall color is subdued with very green tint dulling the entire affair. That said, it is a modestly budgeted title, and those import nuts used to Universes other low priced transfers shouldn't be too surprised at the less than stellar quality.
Sound- Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo Japanese with optional Chinese (simplified and traditional) and English subtitles. The sound was fine, free of hiss, pops, any distortions.
Extras- 9 Chapters--- Trailer
Conclusion- Well, it is just as imaginative as it is empty. A real treat to anyone who is proud of having 'different' films, movies they can show off to friends, prefacing the film by saying "You've probably never seen anything like this."