September 14, 2009


(2008, Japan, Akanbo shôjo)

There have been decades of adaptions of Kazuo Umezu's horror manga stories, but few very good ones. I persevere because I know the source material is good - traumatic nightmare stories aimed at children, usually with children as the main characters. I thought that the recent run of TV adaptions (Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater) would have bled him dry of stories, but no...

Tamami: The Baby's Curse begins on familiar ground, as Yoko returns to live with her parents after 15 years in an orphanage. But on arrival, her mother denies Yoko is her daughter, the housekeeper stongly advises her to go away and dad is hardly ever around. Mother thinks that Yoko died in the war and still cradles a teddy bear that reminds her of the lost baby. This spectacularly dysfunctional family live in a huge and remote mansion, surrounded by an electric fence, presumably to keep strangers out...

As Yoko explores her shadowy new home, she's frightened by strange noises in the night, something shuffling in the ceiling, and occasionally drops of blood falling on her as she sleeps...

Beginning identically to Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968), I thought this was going to be an update on the same story with similar spooky chills. But halfway through, Tamami: The Baby's Curse transforms into a monster movie, a cross between Basket Case and It's Alive, with special effects that appear to spoof Hollywood action films - slow-motion bullet-time moments, impossible physics, logic-defying character motives.

Considering that Yûdai Yamaguchi has directed offbeat horror comedy before, like Battlefield Baseball (2003) and The Great Horror Family (2004), I'd also expect it to be funny and more original. The monster looks like a CGI Belial (the monster from Basket Case), but moves like Spiderman, with super strength, super speed and the ability to defy space and time.

Some of the CGI isn't bad, and many close-ups are realised with prosthetics and puppets. But this results in a problem of scale - the creature appears to drastically alter size between scenes. There's a fair amount of blood, but gore-hounds will have to wait until the second half of the story to see any.

But with good acting, if not particularly complex characters, and solid shocks moments and gore, this is an above-average adaption of Umezu compared to the Horror Theater series. But it's still not as good as the similar thrills to be found in the old It's Alive and not as much fun as the Basket Case films or the scampering creature feature Hiruko The Goblin.

The Malaysian DVD I watched (pictured at top) is NTSC, all-region, anamorphic widescreen 2.35, and has very good English subtitles.

There's this subtitled trailer on YouTube...


  1. I enjoyed this also, but agree with your comment about the scale of the baby being inconsistent. Must get my own review up, too.

  2. I've already watched this
    dvd movie
    . yes this movie is really scary..

  3. Nice review!

    Ditto on the scale issue, but that was really the only problem I had with this movie. The cg used was subtle enough, and done very well for a Japanese film (I know that doesn't say much, but hey). While the Basket Case comment was true, I don't think it's an entirely fair comparison.

    The manga that this was based on, Shojyo Akanbo, was a creepy story but lacked any real punch. Other than the man from the orphanage, the movie follows the source material very closely until the second half, where the story goes in a radically different direction. Rather than pissing and moaning in true fanboy fashion, I have to say that was the film's biggest strength and as such this is an excellent retelling of the story. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll leave it at that. Again, good work.

  4. who sing this tamami song :)