By Sam Reeve
I thought Uzumaki would be perfect for Halloween’s Japanese Horror Month entry. It has a perfect blend of truly bizarre horror and comical carnivalesque visuals and sounds which, to me, are what make up Halloween.
Uzumaki (aka Spiral) is connected to other films from Japanese Horror Month in a couple different ways: One of the screen writers also worked on the screenplay for Tokyo Gore Police, and Uzumaki is based on a manga by the amazing Junji Ito, whose work also inspired Kakashi (and numerous other horror shows and films).
Here’s the basic plot:
The story concerns the inhabitants of the small Japanese town of Kurôzu-cho that seems to be cursed by supernatural events surrounding spirals. Many people become obsessed or paranoid about spiral shapes, which starts resulting in several gruesome deaths. Eventually people start transforming into something other than human, such as snails and twisted forms.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: First, it’s very bizarre, not your average horror in any sense. The visuals are great, sometimes genuinely creepy, other times pretty funny. Second, the story isn’t bad. I have no idea what the manga is like, so I can’t compare, but I liked what the film did. Uzumaki is definitely something I could see myself viewing a few more times.
Below you can find a low-qualitycopy of Uzumaki on Youtube, with English subtitles. If you can find this film elsewhere, I highly recommend it (I was too lazy).
By Sam Reeve
Like many of the movies and shows I’ve been watching for Japanese Horror Month, I found Kakashi on my magical travels through Youtubeland whilst sleep deprived. I went into this film knowing nothing about it and without having read the video description below it. The movie, though not super awesome, did manage to be pretty creepy at times. When I read in the description beneath the video that it was based on a manga by Junji Ito (known for Uzumaki and Tomie), it made sense. That dude creates some unnerving shit.
If you’re not familiar with Ito’s work and still thinking “should I really click that blue link to find out who he is?“, just look at a few of these pictures from his mangas.
Kakashi reminded me of both Twin Peaks and Pet Sematery. It starts off with Kaoru checking her missing brother’s apartment for clues. She finds an envelope with a letter from his ex-girlfriend, asking for help. Assuming her brother has gone to the village from where the letter originated, Kaoru heads there too.
Spooky shit happens as soon as she gets there. While driving through the tunnel that leads to the village, her car stalls. She meets lots of creepy villagers on her way in who don’t respond to her or have vacant stares. All of them are preparing kakashi (scarecrows) for the upcoming kakashi festival.
Kaoru finds the house of Izumi, her brother’s ex, and doesn’t get a warm welcome, but is allowed to stay the night. From here, shit gets weirder with Kaoru having dreams that skirt reality, more ominously silent locals, and hints throughout the film that the scarecrows aren’t what they seem.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Kakashi was actually a bit creepy. It’s obvious from the moment Kaoru steps into the village that 1) she shouldn’t be there and 2) no one wants her there. That’s a pretty unnerving feeling, at least for most normal people, and I found it getting to me. There are plenty of ghost appearances, plot twists and creepy Japanese hicks to make you curl up just a little closer to your mom’s shitty cat that keeps you up all night.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: Maybe it’s because I’m tired, maybe I’m retarded, or maybe some of it was lost in translation, but there was some confusing stuff in this movie. Like how I couldn’t figure out until almost half-way through the movie that Izumi was actually someone who Kaoru knew (she was apparently her roommate in school) and not just some random pen pal girl of her brother’s. She does mention knowing Izumi to the girl’s parents, but she made it seem like she was a mere acquaintance from school.
The villagers creeping on the girl was great and all, but it would have been nice to understand their motivations. At first it seems like they don’t want her there so she can’t interfere (they tell her to leave, try to drive her away by saying her brother isn’t in their village), but then they try their best to keep her stuck there (lie about her car being fixed before jumping her). I don’t feel it quite added up, but hey, what do I know?
Below is the full movie Japanese with English subtitles. Happy Thanksgiving!