DVD Review: TOMIE Unlimited – A J-Horror Film By Noboru Iguchi
Warning: Review contains graphic images!
The film’s strength lies within its absurdities.
The Cronenberg-style horror flick, TOMIE Unlimited, is the ninth, and nastiest, entry in the film series based on a popular manga by Junji Ito. Renowned for directing AV (Adult Video) and action/horror films on a meagre budget, Noboru Iguchi, true to form, delivers a totally in-your-face splatterfest that is rife with buckets of blood and dismembered bodies.
Schoolgirl Tsukiko (Moe Arai) is a photography enthusiast with an inferiority complex caused by the jealousy she has towards her beautiful elder sister, Tomie (Miu Nakamura). This isn’t helped by the fact that she is also in love with her sister’s judo boyfriend, Toshio (Kensuke Owada).
Whilst being photographed by Tsukiko just outside their school, Tomie is instantly killed by a falling iron crucifix that pierces through her left shoulder exiting out of her right hip (a scene reminiscent to one from The Omen where Father Brennan, played by character actor Patrick Troughton, is struck by an iron rod), resulting in a fountain of blood.
One year later, Tsukiko and her parents are celebrating, in remembrance, what would have been Tomie’s 18th birthday. There is a knock at the door – it’s Tomie. Overjoyed, yet hysterical, her parents throw their arms around their daughter and welcome her back as though nothing had happened. Immediately, Tomie’s father, looking somewhat like the vintage screen actor Peter Lorre, begins to act like a man possessed and alarmingly starts to smell and lick Tomie’s long flowing black hair. It doesn’t take long before Tsukiko begins to realise that her back-from-the-dead sister is a nasty piece of work and her return home is just the beginning of Tsukiko nightmare.
For media idol/actress, Arai, this was her first starring role in a horror picture. Although she was only 15 years old at the time, the result is a very convincing portrayal of a girl troubled by her emotional isolation.
Although not what you would call a conventional beauty, Nakamura embraced the role of Tomie giving the character an unsettling presence. It’s no surprise that she was able to pull this off since she likes to read books on UFO’s and practices astral travelling on a daily bases. Her interest in the paranormal certainly contributed to her character’s overall creepy persona.
AKB48 fans may be interested to learn that troupe member Aika Ota makes an appearance as Tsukiko’s friend Kae, and proves to be a relatively decent young actress. The three youngsters seem to work well with each other and proves to be a crucial asset to the film.
Schoolgirls in sailor-fashioned uniforms feature prominently in Iguchi’s films such as Mutant Girl Squad (2010). So it’s no surprise then that the young female characters are seen wearing such garb. Disturbingly, Iguchi has openly admitted to having many fetishes; schoolgirls dressed in sailor-style uniforms is one of them, along with an enema fetish – but we won’t go there! Iguchi says in the insightful video interview included as a Special Feature on this DVD that young girls go through a physical and an emotional transformation during their school life. It’s this reality that is being projected in the form of extreme hideous metamorphosis of selected characters in Iguchi’s films; Tomie’s ability to appear in various forms – the multi-headed centipede for instance – is a case in point.
The centipede, as well as all the other weird and outrageous monsters and creatures in TOMIE Unlimited, stem from the imagination of horror special effects maestro, Yoshihiro Nishimura, who has also worked his magic on cult films like The Machine Girl (2008), Hard Revenge Milly (2008) and its sequel Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle (2009). Nishimura was given full reign of the makeup effects without any interference from Iguchi.
You may, understandably, think that if the special effects were taken away, there’d be very little of the film left. But you’d be wrong. Although the plot is by no means intelligent, the sub-plot has more substance than a lot of horror B-Movies. According to Iguchi, the underlying narrative is about an adolescent girl’s internal turmoil, although this may seem a little ambiguous under all the blood and guts and weird imagery. It’s not until the nearing of the film’s end that we can start to make some sense of it all. But even then, the conclusion is open to interpretation – just as Iguchi meant it to be.
Although it clearly doesn’t have the sophistication of the likes of Ringu or Ju-On, the film’s strength lies within its absurdities. Iguchi has said that Japanese audiences tend look upon the gruesome scenes in his films as laughable and hopes that the open-mindedness of Western audiences will lead them to be more frightened. This, however, is unlikely to happen as the gory sequences are just too amusing. The humour may be unintentional, but actually, it works in the film’s favour as it did for similar gorefests like the granddaddy of all ‘video nasties’, The Evil Dead. As already stated, it just doesn’t have the intensity or the craftsmanship of other J-horror films that are held in much higher esteem. But with his track record, it probably wasn’t Iguchi’s intentions to try and make a film that will be celebrated in years to come. So enjoy it for its short life.
If you are still in doubt as to whether or not to buy a copy of TOMIE Unlimited, then perhaps the temptation of the video interview with Iguchi will sway you to part with your money. At just shy of 60 minutes in length, it is an insightful – and admittedly shocking at times – conversation with the director of many splatter and fetish porn films. His shared tales including the one about porn actresses arriving on set with their front teeth missing due to too much glue-sniffing are jaw-dropping. It’s a real eye-opener into an industry that is not often openly talked about. And for this reason alone the DVD is worth having.
• Interview with Director Noboru Iguchi
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Subtitles: English (Optional)
Run Time: 85 min
Label: Bounty Films released in UK by Eureka Entertainment Ltd
Release date: 23 January 2012
Review written by Spencer Lloyd Peet (Administrator)