March 27, 2012

TOMIE: UNLIMITED (2011) - she keeps coming back!


TOMIE: UNLIMITED
(2011, Japan)

This J-horror franchise has longevity, just like Tomie...

No matter how awful her predecessors have been, I can't resist seeing her again. I must see her again. It's obsession. No matter how hard I try to erase Tomie from my memory, new versions keep springing up. Just when I thought I'd never see her again...

Junji Ito's female nightmare began life in his horror manga, becoming an early recurrent subject. His artwork portrays fright to the highest level of hysteria. Some pages of his stories Uzumaki and Gyo literally give me the chills, usually something only movies can manage. The difficulty lies in filming 'visual hysteria', as well as convincingly portraying distorted human forms. Uzumaki made a fantastic film, but falls very short of the epic scale of the manga. Gyo, a tale of sea creatures on the attack, has just been made into a (short) feature-length anime that I'm really excited about. But the premise of Tomie is potentially endless.


Tomie is a simple but unique monster - a supernatural, psychic sado-masochist. A personification of the problems of obsessional love. A likely predecessor could be Kumi Mizuno's character from Matango: Fungus of Terror (1963). A femme fatale with a monstrous secret.

Miu Nakamura is the new Tomie
You'll be relieved to hear you don't have to watch any of the previous eight Tomie 'episodes' to understand Tomie: Unlimited, the story isn't a saga. More like a string of serial killings. Her methods and motives are consistent, she just keeps finding new victims...


The story starts with a bang (the scriptwriter must have been really impressed by the original version of The Omen) and Tomie is soon up to her old tricks. This time, the focus of her attention is a small Japanese family, in particular a teenage schoolgirl. Tomie usually picks men as her prey, and her victimisation of her younger sister also involves her father and the boy she fancies.

Tomie is also a glutton for punishment and keeps coming back for more, no matter what her loved ones do to her. Her method, divide and conquer.


All I'll say is that this film delivers plenty of body horror, but more in the style of Frank Henenlotter than David Cronenberg. I was initially alarmed that the director of RoboGeisha and Machine Girl was tackling this, because I hadn't enjoyed either of those. They were visually inventive but were overplotted, had too much cheap CGI and not enough laughs. But here he's consciously aiming for a horror film, with fairly restrained CGI in favour of practical prosthetic effects, though they're low-budget enough to look retro.


It begins as dark as any Tomie, creepy and psychotic, but then tips over-the-top to a frenzy, almost resembling a Re-Animator comedy for a few scenes. This is a shame, because it then regains its creepy balance for a very dark climax. Overall, this is the best Tomie for years, and certainly a good start for those who dislike their horror slowly-paced.

One of director, Noboru Iguchi's, aims with the film was to visualise ideas from the manga which had previously been too difficult to film. He's succeeded in bringing many more of Tomie's wildest talents to the screen, while other scenes are simple and effective evocations of Ito's 'hysterical horror'. One involves Tomie's hair...


The UK DVD and Blu-ray have a simple but extended interview with the director. At first glance, it's a little round man sitting by an office window, but the revelations about his start in the porn industry are both fascinating and beguiling, because of his honesty. Talking about his non-porn films, I was intrigued by the mentions he makes about not being able to show blood in his films, even recently. Presumably this has been a big problem because of mainstream Japanese film censors. But something must have just changed because this Tomie is incredibly bloody. Very, very.


Iguchi mentions that the actress playing Tomie's victim, Moe Arai (above), is a major pop-star from the J-pop girl-band AKB48. Only in Japan could a fifteen-year-old girl be cast in such a warped horror film and directed by an ex-porn director. (Enough hyphens for ya?)

He talks about his serious approach to Tomie and also about the films that have impressed and influenced him. He saw Jigoku (1960) and Hausu (1977) at an impressionable age. When asked about his favourite American films I nearly fell off my chair. The Devil's Rain, Flesh For Frankenstein, Who Can Kill A Child?, Dead And Buried, Zombie Flesh Eaters... Surely he can't like all the same films as me? I almost suspected that he'd picked this list to appeal to horror fans. Otherwise he has great taste... in films. As fanboys go, he actually deserves to be called anal-obsessive...


Here's my look at the first Tomie (1998) and links to reviews of the first seven sequels...

Here's a roughly-subtitled trailer...


"Goodbye for now..."


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