Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Spooktacular # 9: Uzumaki

Just so you know, even after a second viewing this still ranks as my favorite of all the recent onslaught of J-horror films. A large part of that has to do with its avoidance of the standard type of scares and horrors common to the genre, in favor of making a fairly Lovecraftian horror tale about a town doomed by forces more powerful than anything anyone can deal with.

Set in three chapters (Premonition, Erosion, and Visitation), this shows a small town that comes under the sway of spirals (uzumaki) that slowly begin to take over the entire landscape. At first, only one person seems to be infected, the father of Shuichi, one of the two leads, as he becomes obsessed with seeing spiral patterns everywhere and fills up his home with anything with that pattern on it. Before long, however, it becomes clear that the entire town is being transformed. A dark spiral-shaped cloud covers the sky, with tendrils reaching down into the lake. Classmates begin transforming. A body count starts to accumulate, as people begin sacrificing themselves to the glory of the pattern. It is swiftly clear that Shuichi and his girlfriend Kirie need to get the hell out of Dodge before they’re all taken over as well.

There is nothing creepy or Dark City-ish at all about this picture.

One thing I really enjoyed about this is how it doesn’t make any real effort to explain all this. They do uncover some small clues that give hints as to what exactly is causing this (ancient mirrors being found in Dragonfly Pond), but nothing really substantial is ever unearthed. Like some ancient Lovecraftian elder being, something just awoke and decided to claim everyone in town, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

As long as we’re on the subject of Lovecraft, I should mention that, much like the Re-Animator series, this movie also has a fair amount of humor going for it too. Despite the dark subject matter, it knows that most great horror needs a laugh or two to break the tension, and so plays it just this side of silly. Much like in Exte (another very well done J-horror), it’s a tight balancing act between the scares and laughs, but it manages to pull it off brilliantly.

Rating: ****

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