(Reviewed as part of Final Girl's February film club!)
Uzumaki comes to us as the live action adaptation of the horror manga of the same name by Junji Ito. His unlikely premise of a small town being infiltrated and turned on end by spirals (not to give too much away) comes across as a fresh, if hard to fully grasp, concept - allowing for an exploration of the effect this visual phenomenon can wreak on a human mind.
We are introduced to main character Kirie (Eriko Hatsune) who is appropriately sweet and innocent, paling around with her lifelong and very uptight friend Shuichi (Fhi Fan) little suspecting that her world is about to crazy go nuts.
The glimpse we get into her life includes tandem bike rides with Shuichi from the town's ultra creepy tunnel, being accosted by would-be boyfriend Yamaguchi (Sadao Abe) who is fond of surprising her in the alley on the way home (with a real big surprise later!), trips to the local green grocer/melon gifter, and a pleasant home life with her sculptor dad Yasuo (Tarô Suwa) who has definitely leapt right off the pages of a manga.
Things start to go wrong when Shuichi's dad Toshio (Ren Ôsugi) gets a little too interested in all things Spiral, collecting the shape from all over town and making his own private funhouse in the attic - no you can't borrow my barber shop sign!
Things come to an ugly head with his obsession, but who knows, maybe that spin cycle was a good way to go? I guess we'll never know, unless we can talk to a mile wide cloud of living ash that begins to hover above the town in, you guessed it, a mighty spiral. Things look grim when the Toshio cloud dunks into the local pond, getting right into every glass of water those poor townsfolk drink, and it pretty much goes right under the tires from then on out - so to speak.
Yeah, he's right to be concerned, I would be too! Shuichi keeps correctly saying that they need to get the hell outta Dodge, but sadly as I'm sure we all assumed that just isn't in the cards, because evil isn't that easy to escape! I had a brief moment of excitement when the random gym scene of the girl's gymnastics team cropped up, hoping that they were going to go all Gymkata on the Spirals but it was not to be so! At least it allowed for another of the semi-frequent fourth-wall breeches that took place in this film...always fun.
An awesome detective dude shows up and tries to lend a hand, complete with a research-montage which was wonderfully nerdy, and a reporter from the bigger town next door tries to cover all the strange goings-on...when will these folks learn that the cursed towns are best avoided?
The color pallet is overall very dark and green, sort of heavy and dirty as you can see by a quick glance at the pictures below. The temporary breaks from this scheme feel all the more jarring (and refreshing) and we know we're back in the thick of things when the colors get grim again. There's a decent amount of gore for the hounds, at least a few scenes, which I neglected to picture below by way of not spoiling it. Fun little animated spirals are inserted frequently and are like little easter eggs to find on repeat viewings - I'm sure I've found barely any of them so far. Oh, and the awesome melon.
For an unusual viewing experience with in-your-face camera work and a variety of cool music (thanks Hitoshi Tsurumaki!) you could do worse than Uzumaki. From the snail on the dvd menu I thought that they might play more of a pivotal role in the goings-on which would have been a bit of a What Is It? flashback for me but they turn out to be minor players. At least, in the final analysis, we got some awesome hair out of the deal!
-- Charlie (2/26/2010)