November 18, 2006

IMPRINT (2006) Takashi Miike's MASTERS OF HORROR episode

NTSC region 1 DVD
(from Anchor Bay)

Bloody hell – why did Showtime commission Takashi Miike to direct an episode of Masters of Horror and then not air the episode? Were they expecting him to censor himself?

His episode, Imprint, doesn’t pull its punches, and includes not one contentious scene at odds with television sensitivities, but several.

Miike reprises the grim excesses of Audition in this grisly hour intended for cable TV. Again there’s a slow set-up before he gets his gloves off with several excruciating and shocking scenes.

Billy Drago plays a drifter looking for a woman he left behind, Komomo. His search has brought him to a remote island whore-house in a Japanese swamp, where he confides his story to an unpopular and facially scarred young prostitute. Unfortunately she also has a tragic tale to tell, all about the lost love he’s looking for.

Not scary at all, but quite horrible, perfect for fans of Saw and Hostel (which featured Miike in a cameo appearance as one of the hostel's clients) who want to go one step further. That’s if you really want to see an abortion scene out of the middle ages, floating foetuses, and a needle torture to set your teeth on edge. I’m glad I’ve seen it, but I won’t be going back in a hurry.

It’s a beautifully shot drama, and has many moments of poignancy, particularly the grassy riverbank covered in paper windmills. But the excess isn’t as sophisticated as Audition.

Also, the acting is very distracting. Billy Drago, an actor in danger of being typecast as a frequent visitor of prostitutes (like in Mysterious Skin), gives an overly mannered and unconvincing performance. However he doesn’t look too bad because he’s surrounded by Japanese actresses who can’t speak English dialogue too clearly. There are a couple of exceptions, like actress Michie Ito as Komomo, who balances the film up dramatically.

It’s certainly one of the best stories of this variable series, (Joe Dante’s and John Carpenter's entries were my favourites) and it’s a better than average Miike for that matter – it’s really a pity that he couldn’t film it in Japanese language.

Credit is due to Showtime for not showing it at all, rather than censoring it, but I bet that this situation doesn’t happen again in season two.

Imprint is available on DVD in the US and also aired in the UK on pay-TV station Bravo.

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