As the sage Patton Oswalt demonstrated in his bit about Death Bed: The Bed that Eats , one can make a horror movie out of anything. By “anything,” I mean that the cause of the terror is something that just isn't scary; like a bed, a Good Guy doll or a Gingerbread Man (even one voiced by Gary Busey). Or, the idea is genuinely terrifying, but the filmmakers did not really know what to do with it, like Teeth. Higuchinsky's adaptation of Junji Ito’s horror manga, Uzumaki, falls into the former category.
The Japanese word for “spiral,” Uzumaki is an apt title for a story of the small town of Kurouzu has become “haunted” by spirals. The film attempts to tie together what were a series of short stories set in the same town into one cohesive narrative. Starting out small, with a few townspeople noticing spirals more and more, it soon grows. High school student Kirie Goshima (Eriko Hatsune) finds out that her boyfriend Shuichi (Fhi Fan) is worried about his father, who is amassing quite a collection of spirals in pictures, shells, vinyl records, etc. But that’s not enough. He soon has to consume spiral fish cake and flies into a rage when the family runs out. Eventually the man ends up killing himself by forcing his body into a washing machine. I know this doesn't sound particularly horrifying and, to be honest, it isn’t. But seeing the end result is bizarre.
Crazier still is when certain students at Kirie’s school stop attending regularly and only come in on rainy days. They’re moving very slowly, because they’re growing SNAIL SHELLS ON THEIR BACKS! The spirals are turning people into gigantic snails! Also amusing is a girl that desperately needs attention all the time whose hair grows ridiculously large and Medusa-like curls.
Uzumaki is not a traditional “J-Horror” film. Though there's a curse, there are no kabuki-faced, pint-sized demons. But the death and transformation sequences are gruesome and bizarre. Unfortunately, they're nowhere near as grotesque as the comic book from which it is based. One particularly disgusting story in the manga featured pregnant women developing a taste for human blood after being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. It tied back into the spiral-theme by the women using old-fashioned hand-drills to get their fix.
You really don’t want know how their kids turn out in the next story.
The stronger elements of the film are those that demonstrate the lengths to which one will go to satisfy an obsession. The wife of the laundry machine man becomes so afraid of spirals as a result of his actions that she can't have any around. The phobia is so strong that she cuts off her own fingertips. You can guess how things turn out after someone mentions the shape of the inside of the human ear.
This movie does have a charm to it, and you can see the seeds of a stronger horror-fest hidden within. Unfortunately, while it is very original and imaginative, it just doesn't quite satisfy. As it was made before the comic was completed, it doesn’t even have an ending. While I recommend you check it out, it's not recommended for a Cavalcade.