Like a lot of people I fell into the world of Asian horror with Hideo Nakata’s Ringu. After being thrilled by the imagery and concept I read the trilogy of novels by Koji Suzuki: Ring, Spiral, and Loop. I knew there was a filmed adaptation of the sequel, but at the time Asian imports were hard to find, and I kept confusing Uzumaki, called Spiral when it came over to the states, with Rasen, which was the filmed sequel to Ringu and also translates to Spiral (and also NOT the filmed sequel by Nakata which I reviewed last year…confused yet? ). Anyway, that’s a long preamble to the fact I finally watched Uzumaki, which is a somewhat silly but effective nightmare that has some great visual moments and a barely held together story that nevertheless makes it an oddity to catch.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Young Kirie and her boyfriend Shuichi are starting to notice their town of Kurouzu-cho is getting a little too obsessed with spirals. Shuichi’s dad can’t think of anything else, and the pair begin to notice strange spirals appearing everywhere they go. Soon people are dying, and spirals are spreading everywhere…is it a curse? An invasion? Uzumaki doesn’t really care to divulge its answers, or make a whole lot of sense. What it does want to do is create opportunities for really weird moments of fear and hopelessness as Kirie and Shuichi race to get out of the town before spirals consume them, too.
Uzumaki is adapted from the horror manga of the same name by Junji Ito; there’s even an Easter egg referencing the manga and the author in the beginning of the film, and having now read through the first third of the story it’s surprising how much of the film’s visuals and mechanics are lifted straight from the story. These surreal moments and images (trying hard not to resort to the trite and overused Lynchian here) are really effective, particularly the end, which use a series of stills to show the effects of the – let’s call it a curse – over the town.
In those moments of horror and surreal craziness Uzumaki is as effective as some of the best Asian horror we’ve come to see. For me, it’s slightly hobbled by some truly bizarre musical cue choices that I have to assume make sense to Japanese audiences but are so out of sync with the tone of the film it becomes a distraction. There’s also some real interesting acting choices here: again, I’ve watched a lot of other Asian films where this kind of exaggerated acting fits into the overall tone the film is using, but note to director Higuchinsky: your creepy stalker kid feels like he’s in a different movie.
(Thanks for killing him off)
None of those things stop Uzumaki from being a real interesting movie to check out. I’m a sucker for seeing something fantastical I’ve never seen before, and this film has a few moments that really work both in that regard and in getting some chills in your body.