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Spirals Out of Control: Uzumaki

November 9, 2008

UZUMAKI (2000)
d.  Akiro Higuchi

A strange J-horror movie that approaches Lynchian excess and almost captures Lynchian success, but just falls short. Strong visuals cross-breed with over-the-top characters to create a memorable film that leaves more questions than answers.

Basically, this movie tells the story of small town overcome by a strange obsession with spirals, uzumaki. High schoolers Kirie and her childhood friend, Shuichi, experience the weirdness first hand through Shuichi’s father’s growing obsession with the shape. His obsession ultimately leads to his doom, but not before it infects his wife, Kirie’s father and several classmates.

Ah-hah! ... No I Still Don't Get It

Eyeball, Spiral... Whatever!

As the spiral shape slowly overwhelms the psyche of the townsfolk, we soon discover that it is transforming them as well. Hope arrives in the guise of an out-of-town journalist, who may have discovered a reason behind the strangeness (somehow involving a Japanese play on the word Kagami, meaning both “mirror” and “serpent”). Unfortunately, this never plays out and the town’s fate is sealed.

I describe this film as Lynchian because characters with broader-than-life personalities populate this town as weirdness erupts in violent spasms; the more strange the world becomes, the more strange the people become in reaction. Also, the editing and acting help create a dream-like atmosphere typical of Lynch’s films. However, the tone created by these clashing elements only disrupts and undermines the effectiveness of the horror. Don’t get me wrong, it is still creepy as hell watching this film, but without any rationale, it falls apart. My guess is that this is based on a manga.

Still, it is worth it to see the human snails climbing the walls of the school building, even if it is only brief.

** stars.

Next week, I hope to have the live-action Aeon Flux as well as a couple of Masters of Horror episodes.

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