Yurei: Uzumaki

Hello and welcome to night four of this serial review of some of the finest Japanese horror movies to grace our screen. This time we'll be looking at another artistic film in which symbolism features prominantly, the movie adaption of Junji Ito's Uzumaki, or Spiral.

Like many of these movies, Spiral soon went on to achieve cult status and garnered quite a following of both fans of the original manga and of film students who regularly analyse the movie's imagery and symbolism and ponder over what these mean. It's an incredible movie that I hadn't actually seen myself until it was suggested to me recently. I didn't really know what to expect, but what I found was incredible.

The movie is set in the small town of Kurozu, which seems to be inhabited by an array of unusual characters. But this only starts to be realised by our protagonist, a high school girl called Kirie, when she see's her boyfriend's father sitting in the street filming the shell of a snail with a video recorder, one of our first instances of the spiral that will later infest this movie like ants. This strange behaviour also seems to worry his son, as evidenced by the fact that he flatly asks her to elope with him, before dismissing the idea just as casually as he brought it up.

This uzumaki theme is fast continued when Kirie returns home that night to her own father, Goshima, who had just won an award for his pottery, and her boyfriend's father sitting discussing it. He ask Goshima to create a spiral-patterned platter for him, calling pottery the highest form of art and clearly fascinated by the rotation of the pottery wheel.

The next day at school Kirie is approached for the second time in two days by a male student who is stalking her, claiming that her boyfriend "is a drag" and that she should date him instead, because people would respect him more if he had a cute girlfriend. As she tries to escape from him, she proceeds onto the staircase - which, by no coincidence, I'm sure, happens to be a spiral - one student throws himself off of, killing himself. Suichi notes his father's obsession with spirals and theorises that the uzumaki was the reason the student died, and that it has taken over the entire town like a curse.

The degree of Suichi's father's obsession soon becomes evidenced when he climbs into a washing machine and is killed inside. His mother faints at the funeral when she notices whirling clouds in the sky which begin to spiral downwards, creating an effect not too dissimiliar from what a tornado looks like as it's forming. The "cyclone" spirals downwards until it hits Dragonfly Pond as Suichi's mother is being ambulanced to hospital.

While in the hospital waiting room Suichi once again tells Kirie that they need to escape the town before it's too late and the uzumaki curse gets to them. The two are then approached by Tamura Ichiro, a reporter who is curious as to why his father died. Suichi shows them the uzumaki tape that he was filming even as he died. But lots of things still remain unexplained, so he asks to keep the tape and continue to do research into the reason why the father killed himself.

The rest of the town all starts to go spiral mad. Suichi's mother develops an extreme phobia to anything uzumaki, as it reminds her of her husband and his odd obsession, and so she destroys any uzumaki she can find, including cutting her own finger tips because of the spiral-shaped fingerprints. When Tamura, who has been doing research on the case, calls them out to Dragonfly Pond to tell them his findings, they are interupted by Kirie's stalker who, distraught by the fact that she still chooses her boyfriend over him, claims "You will never forget me," and runs in front of Tamura's car, killing both in a horrific accident.

Following this Suichi's mother finally cracks when a large millipede sneaks into her room and tries to crawl into her ear and inhabit the spiral-shaped cochlea in the deepest part of the human ear. She then sees a hallucination of her husband who tells her to let him (the millipede) stay with her in that spiral part of the ear. Her spirophobia causes her to grab a shard of the smashed flower-vase, which she used to hit the millipede, and impale herself in the side of the head with it, effectively commiting suicide.

Finally the whole town succumbs to the uzumaki. The giant face of Suichi's father appears in the typhoon clouds, several of the students turn into giant snails and one self-obsessed girl's hair becomes a giant spiral pattern which extends out for several feet against gravity. And then Suichi himself, just as he and Kirie were about to escape, becomes an uzumaki, as his body begins to twist around, he then attacks Kirie and - we assume, killed her in some spiral-themed fashion.

The movie was strange and terrifying. The camera work is incredibly experimental, which obscure close up and angles, and camera motion which on multiple ocasions moves or rotates in a spiral. These all seem to be thrown in there for the sole purpose of making the viewer feel really incomfortable. There are alot of POV shots and alot of really random angles in there that really confuse you, it's not a natural style at all.

The acting is also a little forced and unnatural. Some characters like Suichi is incredibly flat and emotionless, while his father is at the opposite side of the spectrum and acts really weird and exxagerated. The only character in the movie who really comes close to acting naturally is Kirie, and ever she sometimes felt a little unusual. Nothing in this movie seems right or normal, and it's all that which comes together to create this strange, twisted movie - if you'll excuse the pun.

The movie also benefits from the fact that nothing was really explained. We know that the town is becomming obsessed with the uzumaki, and that the "uzumaki curse" is taking over, causing all manner of strange things to happen, but there is no logic or reason involved at all. It's possible that it's all happening in the mind of one of our characters, as the whole thing is certainly nightmare-ish, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

There are a lot of creepy sound effects involved as well. Particularly in the millipede scene. I've got my fair share of phobias when it comes to bugs and insects, so that scene was scary enough without the sound, but when they added that indescribably sound of the creature moving on top, it creeped the hell out of me.

Anyway, another night another movie. Be sure to check back again tommorow night for part five. Until next time, good night.


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