Uzumaki (2000) Movie Review

Uzumaki is the story of highschooler Kirie, who opens the film with a brief voiceover introduction. We learn that Kirie lives in a small rural Japanese town with her father (her mother has passed away), and that young Kirie has a crush on her childhood buddy Shuichi, whose father is starting to act very strangely. Apparently Shuichi’s father, Toshio, has become obsessed with vortexes, or anything that resembles a vortex in design. One night, while delivering a package to Toshio, Kirie discovers that the old man has somehow stuffed himself into the washing machine and twisted himself into knots — becoming, quite literally, the “vortex” pattern that he is so obsessed with. What is going on? Is the town cursed? And why are vortexes appearing everywhere and on everyone? And why is the slow, fat kid developing a hump underneath his shirt?

Uzumaki is a Slow Bore Horror film. It can be called “horror” for the simple reason that it, well, involves the supernatural. As is the case with all Slow Bore Horror films, Uzumaki has a young female in the leading role. A young female who has as much charisma as the chair I’m currently sitting on — and that, mind you, is insulting my chair. As is the case with all Slow Bore Horror heroines, Kirie has as much intelligence as that big mole on her chin, which is to say she has very little intelligence. The girl is, quite simply, there for us to “walk around” with and to give us a point of reference from which to slowly (oh God so slowly) discover the background behind the weird happenings.

Unless you think I’m trying to slam the actress, I assure you I’m not. I’m quite sure having a lead heroine who does very little, show as little intelligence as possible, and yet seem to be everywhere and anywhere without purpose, is the ideal heroine for Asian Slow Bore Horror films.

The only really interesting thing about Uzumaki is director Higuchinsky, who besides having a name that sounds like a bad Jewish pen name is a heck of a talented director. Higuchinksy displays some real talent and shows flashes of genius when it comes to the movie’s visuals, and his contributions are really the only real reason to see this movie (that is, if you absolutely have to see this movie). A prolonged, slow-moving scene at Shuichi’s house when Kirie discovers Toshio’s body, is exceptionally directed. In it, Higuchinsky keeps the camera framed on the house and slowly moves the camera, and gradually a face comes into view superimposed over the scene. It is genius.

Of equal interest (and even a little creepy) is the hospital scene where a millipede laboriously travels across a hospital room and into a character’s ear. Intensely creepy! Checking up on the director’s name on IMDB tells me that Uzumaki is Higuchinsky’s first movie, and he hasn’t done another one since. A shame, really, since with better material Higuchinsky might be able to really show off his abilities.

It’s really hard to gauge the acting talents of people in Slow Bore Horror films. Why? Mostly because actors are programmed (and in truth, they all move and talk like robots — emotionless robots) that one isn’t sure if they know how to act at all. Uzumaki is most time-consuming and utterly dead when lead actress Eriko Hatsune and the effeminate Shuichi (Fhi Fan) are onscreen. The two have very little chemistry and usually turns the movie into a bad High School play.

The rest of the cast fares better, but not by much. Most of the background cast seems to have two modes of acting: sleepwalk through their scenes or mug for the camera. The “mugging” crowd involves actors speaking or smiling or grinning idiotically into the camera while throwing out their lines. In fact, one of the movie’s worst muggers was involved in another one of movie’s highlights: He got run over by a car. Yay.

After seeing about 10 of these Slow Bore Horror movies in a row, I’m ready to go back to Jennifer Love Hewitt and her, er, generous “acting” talents. Both of them.

Higuchinsky (director) / Junji Ito (manga), Kengo Kaji, Takao Nitta, Chika Yasuo (screenplay)
CAST: Eriko Hatsune …. Kirie Goshima
Fhi Fan …. Shuichi Saito
Hinako Saeki …. Kyoko Sekino
Eun-Kyung Shin …. Chie Marayama

Buy Uzumaki on DVD