June 02, 2006
TOMIE: BEGINNING (2005) the final final chapter
TOMIE: BEGINNING (2005, JAPAN)
Hong Kong region 3 NTSC DVD (Universe Video)
Tomie gets back to the bag...
From Ataru Oikawa, the same writer/director as Tomie: Revenge comes a slightly better, but equally clumsy tale. At least I could tell that it was based on an early story by Junji Ito about Tomie's schooldays.
The story starts present day at a rather poor turnout at a class reunion. Only two former pupils are left to reminisce about Tomie joining their school. The rest of the class are either dead, missing or institutionalised. Mostly told in flashbacks, we see how schoolgirl Tomie divides and conquers. (I don't think that this tale, set 20 years earlier, constitutes Tomie's true 'beginning' - I suspect that she's a lot older than she looks...)
Again shot on video, again with annoyingly loose camerawork (there's a spectacular shot of Mount Fuji at the start of the film that's almost thrown away!). At least the performances are more even than in Tomie: Revenge.
Rio Matsumoto plays Tomie here - she's OK but she hasn't got the nasty giggling quite right. Her first evil acts are little more than grade school bullying, so the film flounders for a while. Later, contrary to her usual M.O. of tormenting her boyfriends and forcing them to kill her, she compels boys to work for her (like she did in Revenge) - this merely keeps her out of the action.
There's more of Tomie's powers of regeneration here than in Revenge, which leads to some confusion for the viewer and some half-hearted special effects - a 'crawling' ear being dragged along the ground belongs in a fifties 'B' movie. There's a better scene where a bandage soaked in Tomie's blood starts regenerating, but logically this means there should be three of her running around (original Tomie, ear Tomie, and bandage Tomie) - more loose ends left dangling from this straggly tale.
One big death scene is off camera (I'm not even sure how she was supposed to have died unless I read the manga again) and the film's big gross-out scene is played for laughs. Her victims' 'mad' scenes are unconvincing and OTT. With no atmosphere and no creepy thrills, all that the film offers is a short story and a little spurting blood - very similar ingredients to the average Thai horror, which isn't saying much.
To be fair, one mad little scene theorises that Tomie is related to a flatworm (!) and the stock footage of the little critter is very interesting, though of no use to the plot. The other highpoint is the ending, firstly because it's a relief that it's finally over and secondly, that it leads neatly back to the first film...
The Hong Kong DVD (pictured above) is anamorphic widescreen, NTSC, decent english subtitles and in stereo. There are two trailers as extras. The film (well, it runs 72 minutes) is coming to Region 1 DVD soon.
Tomie: the final word
I was very disappointed that these two recent additions didn't exceed the accomplishments of any of the first five Tomie films. I doubt if anyone will be encouraged to make any new tales for several years - the unfilmed manga would require considerable skill and formidable special effects! Similarly Ito's epic Gyo, about a land invasion of monstrous fish is also unfilmable. Why doesn't someone make some Uzumaki sequels instead?
Tomie is a unique horror character, though typical of Japanese horror - where powerful women are evil and must be dealt with severely. Where female biology is a bizarre mystery, bordering on the supernatural. Where any woman who looks overtly sexy should be avoided, because once you get involved, she'll ruin your life. Just stick to non-assertive women who don't wear make-up, you'll be fine!
All in all I'd only recommend the Tomie stories made on film, because they are uniquely creepy horror films, and are faithful to Junji Ito's marvelous and mysterious Tomie 'mythos':
Tomie: Forbidden Fruit