Uzumaki (aka Spiral) DVD Review

Review by Peter West

DVD released by Elite Entertainment

Directed by Higuchinsky
Written by Junji Ito & Kengo Kaji

Cast overview:
Eriko Hatsune as Kirie Goshima
Fhi Fan as Shuichi Saito
Hinako Saeki as Kyoko Sekino
Eun-Kyung Shin as Chie Marayama
Keiko Takahashi as Yukie Saito
Ren Osugi as Toshio Saito
Denden as Officer Futada
Masami Horiuchi as Reporter Ichiro Tamura

The Story:

A spell of evil has overcome Kirie Goshima's small town in central Japan. It started one day on the way home from school where she saw her best friend Shuichi Saito's father entranced with the filming of a snail's shell. Shuichi and his mother have become concerned with his father's obsession with spirals. An upstairs room of the Saito home is filled with anything the father could find with a image or resemblance to a spiral. At Kirie's school a boy commits suicide jumping from the top of a spiral staircase. Another classmate who rarely attends school shows up covered in slime with a spiral shaped shell growing on his back. Compounding all of this, another of Kirie's classmates has begun stalking her, jumping out every chance he gets to scare her.

As people around Kirie fall under the spell of the spiral, she relies on Shuichi who she has counted on since childhood to protect her to do the same with this ever growing curse on the townsfolk. Spiral shapes appear in the sky drawing nationwide attention to the small community as the plague of spiral madness appears to be unstoppable! In the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft, Uzumaki draws you into this realm of unspeakable evil where eventual doom is all but a certainty!

Video:

Elite Entertainment has given us a breathtaking transfer of Uzumaki. The film's cinematography uses a tint and grain to enhance the feeling the viewer gets of the overwhelming evil that has befallen this small town. Where some may think this to be a result of bad lighting or poor transfer, it is indeed intentional. The transfer is a anamorphic 1.85:1 which gives it's best results when viewed on a 16X9 widescreen HDTV. Watching it on my 55" HD monitor I was able to notice little things in the background such as the spirals that appear briefly in the sky. My rating 4.5/5.

Audio:

A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track was a pleasant surprise on Uzumaki. It is artfully crafted to enhance the erie feeling that the visuals provide. I was very impressed with it and to sum it up, I would say eerily perfect! My rating 5/5.

Special Features:

Elite has once again given us a superb batch of extras. Besides the usual trailer, picture and still photo gallery and behind the scenes interviews with the director and cast. We even get a special extra of the raw footage shot by Shuichi's father, Toshio Saito, with his camcorder. My rating 4/5.

Conclusion:

Elite's release of Uzumaki is a bold step forward into one of my favorite genres, Asian Horror. With the release of Ringu coinciding with the success of the US remake The Ring, Asian Horror is no longer the realm of cult fans and is fast becoming mainstream. With Uzumaki, Elite has made a statement that they are serious in providing us some of the best that Asia has to offer! While clearly Japanese in both setting, story and characters, Uzumaki is directed by Higuchinsky, a Ukrainian.

When I was around 12, I picked up a collection of H.P. Lovecraft short stories. Never before had the written word ever scared me! Uzumaki is one of the few films I've seen that uses Lovecraft's style of drawing you deep into the unknown, impending, doom to captivate you in it's dark spell. To fully appreciate Uzumaki, unplug the phone, turn off the lights and prepare to give your undivided attention for 90 minutes to this fine film! My overall rating 4.5/5.

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