Uzumaki (aka Spiral) DVD Review
Review by Peter West "Danger Seeker"
DVD released by Elite Entertainment
Directed by Higuchinsky
Written by Junji Ito & Kengo Kaji
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
"Asian Horror has a sense of equality about what is being portrayed on screen during the intense moments of supernatural violence that it’s easy to understand where the sincerity and popularity derives from. The concepts used to tell one single story are often obtained through the most sensible of creations and turned into a solution fit for exploration and craftiness. Uzumaki meaning Spiral, vortex, or whirlpool in Japanese is essentially an object of great obsession. The focus upon the shape and how mesmerizing it is can be stimulating to the senses. The suggestion of entering a realm where we are seduced and sucked into is intriguing. The spiral has always been a great work of manipulating art that starts from one point and slowly builds to a daunting twirl of mass complexity exhausting the viewers attention through agonizing swivels and tilts of the head trying to follow the path till it’s ultimate end. The horror aspect is fascinating because as an object the spiral depending on it’s power and creators desire can wander endlessly never allowing the eyes room to pull away — constantly drawing them deeper within this mystifying portal that seems to exist without the laws of latitude and longitude." – Supernova
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!
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.
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.
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.
Peter West's Danger Seeking Summary:
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.
A special thanks to Supernova for his foreword to this review.
Films that Peter West reviews are viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX certified Pioneer Elite VSX-55TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.