Country: Japan
Running Time: 101'
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Miki Sakai, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Kumiko Endou, Masaya Kikawada


Story: Hideo, an art student, murders his model Tomie when she, in a fit of jealousy, slices up his portrait of her. His two friends help him bury her body in the woods. Later, however, at a party they notice a girl resembling Tomie. Right then, Hideo is found dead in the WC, with a knife in his neck held by his own hand. His friend Shunichi immediately falls for Tomie, much to chagrin of his mother. Obsession, silly acting in public, decapitation and dismemberment, crawling heads and other strange events follow.

Review:  TOMIE movies are one of the greater mysteries of contemporary horror cinema: this phenomenon should've ended with the first film, as even the original was a barely watchable exercise in boredom. While its atmosphere was occasionally fine, it lacked anything resembling character, plot, logic, sense or enough memorable set-pieces to pay off for the lack of contents generally expected in a good movie. Yet, the haphazard sequence of non-events which served as its 'plot' somehow became the source of a whole series of movies, each duller and more pointless than the previous.

'Wait a minute!' I hear you say. 'Someone actually LIKED those dull-fests enough for them to make a whole series of crappy TOMIE flicks?'
'I'm afraid so,' says I. 'And they are (almost) all available in a single pack now, courtesy of RONIN.' The series is made up of these titles: TOMIE, TOMIE: RE-PLAY, TOMIE: RE-BIRTH, TOMIE: ANOTHER FACE and  TOMIE: FINAL CHAPTER aka TOMIE: FORBIDDEN FRUIT. The one that’s missing in this package is TOMIE: REVENGE.

The mystery of this series' existence may be somewhat elucidated by the fact that it is loosely based on a very good manga by Junji Ito (UZUMAKI). In other words, many people had a reason to expect that movies adapted from a decent comic should also be good. Ah, it was not meant to be. Say goodbye to the comic's creepiness and its clever scrutiny of the highschoolers' moral dilemmas, say goodbye to its insights into the gender and sex politics of Japanese youth – say hello to a series of slow-burning, uneventful, silly, pointless, uninvolving, scare-less excuses for 'horror'.

Alexis Glass wrote a fine introduction to the work of Junji Ito. In it, he points out to one trait which cannot be stressed strongly enough: ''Junji Ito is also well known for eschewing any sort of scientific explanation for the strange events in his comics, concentrating his efforts instead on simply making the horror as visceral and disquieting as possible.''

As all fans of Japanese horror already know, American clear-cut logic and explanations are not always to be found here. Irrationality is a common 'spice' in the Oriental dish, especially in Japanese horror, with its disregard for logic and tendency towards puzzling, open endings. That's all fine and dandy. However, the TOMIE flicks push viewers' tolerance for this approach a bit too far, without ''making the horror as visceral and disquieting as possible''. There is an exchange in TOMIE: REBIRTH which I find exemplary and crucial for understanding this series:

''But why did Hitomi become Tomie?'' wonders one character.
''It does not matter,'' philosophizes another.
''I see. Tomie again,'' accepts the first one stoically.

And again, and again, and again… How or why – it does not matter. Judging on whether you find this exchange creepy, funny or just plain ridiculous you can decide whether you'll give TOMIE flicks a chance or not. Personally, if I were to choose between unkillable, ever-resurrecting baddies, I'd take Jason Vorhees any day of the week and twice on Friday. At least he works on his own dumb level, whereas Tomie does not rise to the ambition it set out to accomplish.
One TOMIE flick not yet reviewed from this collection is TOMIE: REBIRTH, and that is my sad duty. It is directed by Takashi Shimizu in a rare excursion away from his repetitive JUON/GRUDGE movies, but sadly, his creepy touch is largely absent and the flick remains another dreary piece of non-entertainment typical for this entire series.

Shimizu seems bent on boring his audience to tears with his long shots, mostly immobile camera, brooding dark-ambient music interrupted by long silences and other devices commonly found in dull artsy movies, but rarely effective in genre filmmaking, which requires some regard for pacing, rhythm, narrative-drive and structure. None of the latter can be found in this movie, which goes all over the place: without a main character, it deals with a group of barely sketched persons 'distinguished' merely by their good looks and names. There is no suspense nor drama nor horror, for who could care for those ciphers lost in a 'plot' (dis)organized by the principle of 'anything goes'?
For example: one character's mother dies unexpectedly. 'She suffered from a strange illness,' says he, apparently unmoved. When his friend comes to the wake and removes the coffin's lid, he sees the woman's face all hairy, like a werewolf's. Just then, her mouth opens and a stream of long hair flows out. A solid visual is achieved, a jump-shock provided, but then… this boy and his just-orphaned friend shrug it off and never mention it again. TOMIE: REBIRTH is full of such moments. Things... just... happen. With no inherent logic, no matter how limited of constructed.

What's even worse, Shimizu fails to create a feeling of strange events building into an oppressive sense that the whole concept of rationality is existentially undermined – something that another adaptation of Junji Ito, namely UZUMAKI by Higuchinsky, has done effortlessly. What you get instead is the feeling of the scriptwriters who thought: ''It IS crazy, but who cares?'' Lacking focus of any kind, TOMIE: REBIRTH meanders through some longeurs and a couple of memorable scenes (like the never-failing effect of Tomie's detached head, here growing a pair of limbs/tentacles) to its irrelevant, non-poignant 'who cares' ending. And that's it. The tech credits are solid enough, and there ARE duller TOMIE movies than this one, so it can be serviceable in a moment of utter desperation when you have nothing better to watch, but is there anything to recommend it on its own? No, not really.

And now, for the inevitable questions.
One: if you were to see one single TOMIE flick, which should it be? I'd recommend TOMIE: REPLAY. It's as silly as the rest, but at least it's more eventful, with quicker pace and more outrageous imagery than in others (after all, they are growing a Tomie girl in a water tank in this one!).
Two: is this collection worth your while? The answer for most 'normal' film lovers would be 'No!' It is made up of one atrocious (ANOTHER FACE), one poor (the first TOMIE), two watchable but nothing special (FORBIDDEN FRUIT and REBIRTH) and one mildly interesting (REPLAY).

DVD [NTSC, Region 1]:  Image quality of all titles in this collection is barely passable, as they are all muted and washed out, with pale colors and very poor blackness (which is mostly gray). TOMIE: REBIRTH's screen (anamorphic widescreen, 1.85: 1) is additionally cropped so that the effect is that of watching a movie taped off someone else's TV. Audio is in Japanese, 5.1 Dolby Digital, no complaints there. English subtitles are very fine. Extras include: interviews with the cast and director, storyboard-to-film comparison, a look at the special effects and trailers for the five titles in this collection.
    Extras for other movies in this set are like this: TOMIE ('making of' documentary + trailers); ANOTHER FACE (zero: this is a cheap direct-to-video flick, so nothing to add to that); REPLAY (trailers + a 'gallery' of only 4 or 5 Ito's illustrations!); FORBIDDEN FRUIT (trailers + making of).

PS UPDATE: The last addition to this interminable series, TOMIE UNLIMITED is by far the most outrageous, irrational, surreal, out-there wacky gory entertainment, so I urge you to give it a try if you're into this sort of thing. It makes NO SENSE AT ALL, but is full of crazy imagery, ambitious make up and CGI effects (pretty decent in all) and there's never a dull moment! Now, for a TOMIE film, that's a first!

2 коментара:

  1. "Say goodbye to the clever scrutiny of the highschoolers' moral dilemmas, say goodbye to its insights into the gender and sex politics of Japanese youth"
    Except that those are all present in the movies. Have you need hear Tomie's monologue in the first film, have you not seen the entire first segment in 'Another Face', the ending to Revenge, the entire 'Beginning' and 'Unlimited'? Call them boring and dull, or whatever but you can NOT say they're not intelligent. The entire series (mangas included) plays out as "misandry and. misogyny" which is quite evident, if you look beneath the weirdness and gore (and your ignorance). Dejane molim te...

  2. Dear Tomie: I will gladly read your analysis of TOMIE films in which you will use something more than general statements and insults. My review contains specific quotes and reference to specific scenes as evidence for my statements. That can be a good lesson for you how to be a critic instead of a troll.