Tomie: Unlimited (2011) Movie Review

The name Noboru Iguchi is synonymous with balls-out, gore-soaked cinematic insanity. The guy has cranked out some seriously warped motion pictures, including my personal favorite, the 2008 action flick “The Machine”. All of his films contain some sort of debauchery, be it violence, sex, or a peculiar combination of the two. And while I really have no idea how the previous entries in the “Tomie” universe, Iguchi seems like a wise choice to reboot an iconic Japanese horror franchise. After all, his penchant for warped visuals and insane storytelling are a perfect fit for something dark and seriously messed up. Whether it works or not is a totally different story.

Iguchi’s “Tomie: Unlimited” is precisely what I want from my horror-based entertainment. It’s weird, bloody, bizarre, and, more importantly, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. What can I say? I’m an easy cinematic lay. In fact, trying to figure out the ending is damn near impossible, as the film seems to play by its own unique set of rules. When you start asking questions about what’s going on, it’s already a lost cause. Besides, this isn’t the story of mystery you’re supposed to solve. On the contrary, you’re supposed to sit back, relax, and let all of this craziness wash over you without second guessing anything. It’s the only way these sort of movies can exist without falling apart.

The film chronicles the depressing adventures of Tsukiko (Moe Arai), a young girl who watches helplessly as her sister Tomie (Miu Nakamura) is fatally impaled by a large piece of steel. In true Iguchi fashion, her demise is quite disgusting and more than a little bloody. One year later, on the girl’s birthday no less, Tomie makes an unexpected return, though she’s not the sweet little thing she once was. In fact, she’s quite the raving bitch, a trait that isn’t lost on poor little Tsukiko. Her mother and father become increasingly obsessed with their mysteriously resurrected offspring, the later of whom goes as far as to lick and caress his long lost daughter’s beautiful black hair. The imagery, as you can probably imagine, is abundantly disturbing.

Before too long, people want to kill Tomie, her father included. When she decides she’s had enough of the family life, her father savagely murders her, chops her into pieces in the bathtub, and drops her head in a nearby wastebasket. Does this keep her down? Of course not. The next day, she shows up in school as a new student, though she publicly denies being Tsukiko’s sister. Tomie’s severed head, meanwhile, begins to speak directly to her mentally unhinged father, who spends most of his days gently beating his head against the wall. What in the hell has Tomie become? Why does she keep coming back from the dead? If you’re looking for well-written answers to these perplexing questions, you’re never going to get them.

“Tomie: Unlimited” is more about the scares and shocks than the narrative. The damned thing doesn’t even try to make sense. In fact, it seems more interested in keeping you confused and in the dark about Tomie’s nifty new powers than anything else. The last 30 minutes are particularly baffling, and offers up very little in the way of explanation. How is Tomie connected to the strange tumor with the impossibly long tongue? Not sure, really. And, you know, that’s okay. Iguchi stuffs so much over-the-top insanity into the film that you soon forget how nonsensical the whole bloody affair truly is. The man’s penchant for crazy gore and bizarre visuals are front and center, which is good, really, considering the director’s involvement is the only reason I had an interest in the flick.

How does “Tomie: Unlimited” stack up against other entries in the series? Having never seen any of the previous installments, I can’t say for sure. However, Iguchi’s take on the story is an endlessly entertaining experience, and I certainly hope the films continue in this gory direction. Moe Arai makes a great villain, as she’s both sexy and sinister at the exact same time, a trait that serves the movie’s agenda very well. Without her allure and Iguchi’s desire to flood the movie with warped imagery, “Tomie Unlimited” would have been yet another throwaway J-horror title destined to bore those who have grown tired of the genre.

Noboru Iguchi (director) / Noboru Iguchi and Jun Tsugita (screenplay)
CAST: Miu Nakamura … Tomie
Moe Arai … Tsukiko
Maiko Kawakami
Kensuke Ohwada
Aika Ohta
Kôichi Ôhori