Friday, May 25, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Uzumaki (うずまき) (Spiral) (2000)

Well, here's an oddity of a film, one that is much more bizarre than terrifying, and much more mystifying than interesting. It's like a Tim Burton nightmare world, full of spirals and darkness, but with a lot more blood and guts as well. It's a fairly silly film altogether although it does have some wonderfully macabre ideas. I enjoyed portions of the film, but the whole thing left me wondering if there could have been a better execution... but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's start with...

So, I know this is based off of a manga called Uzumaki. I've read portions of it, but would rather not spoil the later bits. So, I'll only talk about the portions that are relevant to the discussion of the movie. This film is a really good adaptation of the manga. It has scenes basically taken word-for-word, shot-for-shot, from the manga. That's certainly not a bad thing. The manga certainly has its moments, but...

Let me tell you something. I know just about nothing about manga. This is the absolute very first manga-thing I've ever even read. My girlfriend coaxed me into reading it, knowing that I'm incredibly fond of body horror. And yes, there is body horror and it made me happy, but reviewing a manga or even 100% understanding it was something I wasn't even certain I could do. I mean, I sometimes feel as if I have something viscerally against the very idea of manga. So, this was different and even somewhat difficult for me o be okay with, but I did it. I read it, and I watched the movie. I have to say that it is a very good adaptation, probably even better paced than the manga itself.

That being said, in a weird way some parts of the manga seem better, whereas at other times parts of the film are better. I personally prefer the main character, Kirie, from the manga. I found her movie counterpart to be a much sillier, much more ridiculous character. She's hard to take seriously, and her actress seems to be a little over the top. Okay, really over the top at times. That being said I preferred her boyfriend, Shuichi, from the movie, finding his manga counterpart moody and annoying.  I mean, seriously, the dude says the exact same lines in most panels he's in, and he acts almost the exact same, which is like a psychotic person. In the movie he's much mellower, calmer, and genuine. I really liked his character in the film until the very end... but I'll get there. Oh boy will I get there.

As for other items between the manga and the film, I found most of the adapted portions to be pretty decent if a bit predictable. I actually wish more had been taken from the manga because the plot might have been a tad more coherent at times... although even the manga has the problem of a pretty incomprehensible plot at times. I, again, prefer the pacing of the film, seeing it as being less episodic and meshing together a great deal better, but I actually prefer the storytelling of the manga, seeing it almost like a scary tales for kids type of story.

So, I'm going to point this out right now: this movie is not scary. It is not horrific. It is not terrifying. It does not make me jitter and shake. It does not make me want to scream or run. Honestly, I found myself laughing fairly often, usually mocking the ridiculous direction and the very often strange characters. If there's anything I can compare the movie to it would be Twin Peaks. The same sort of humor as well as odd-ball characters  are present in both. I certainly don't mind that. I mean, I love the hell out of Twin Peaks, so seeing a movie with a similar feel had me kind of falling for it a bit.

The big problem is that the acting and the direction are not very good, and while Twin Peaks has at least a few fairly disturbing scenes and elements to it, Uzumaki is mostly pretty ridiculous. I can name all of one creepy scene in the entire movie, and that's more because of the thought of the thing and the gore than because of the film being effective at creeping me out. It was the scene where Shuichi's mother tears off her own fingerprints. Yeah, that was pretty crazy and disturbing, but when I saw Shuichi's father kill himself in a washing machine... well, I found myself laughing hysterically at the thought. I mean, I couldn't stop laughing at the absolute ridiculousness of the situation.

Overall for a horror movie, it isn't scary. That does not make a great horror movie. The film is interesting and sort of a fun watch, but is so damn ridiculous at times that it's easier to make fun of than be scared of.

The imagery of the movie is all about the spiral. All you see is spirals everywhere, spirals in hair, in the air, in food, in objects, on people, in smoke, in water... I can just keep on going. Would you like me to keep stating the objects that have spirals? Because I will. So many beautiful spirals everywhere.
Oh, I kind of like looking at them. They're really fascinating, aren't they? I could... well, I could just look at them all day long, staring at them, wanting them everywhere around me. I can... I can almost hear them speaking to me, telling me the secrets I've always wished to know. These secrets spirals, the brilliant vortex of both life and death, mocking me as it leans and moves, vibrating in my very mind, calling to me as I... as I...

I think I'm at peace now, with the spirals multiplying on my very being. I'm at peace that my cochlea is spiraled. I'm so happy that my fingers have spirals upon them. I am gladdened in my own very red heart that my hair curls enough to be a spiral itself.

The ending to the movie is absolutely awful. It ends both abruptly and without any fanfare. I think the rest of the movie is probably worth watching, but the ending is so cliched, abrupt, and disappointing, although the very last image of the film is absolutely breathtaking. I guess the good has to come with the bad. I wish the movie would have been better in general. If it had been I could have seen myself absolutely loving it if it had been a stronger movie, but as it stands it's pretty mediocre overall. It has some fantastic ideas, mostly coming from the manga and the imagery within it, but in general just doesn't work all that well with its odd direction style, its rough actors, and its sometimes comic dialogue. It also has some pretty bad CGI at times, but to me that isn't even surprising.

I think the movie certainly had potential, but failed ultimately as what it was trying to do. I wish it could have been creepy or scary or a horror movie, but instead it comes off as a pretty rough and well-paced adaptation of a pretty mediocre  and terribly-paced manga.

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