Monday, March 1, 2010

Spinning, Spanning, Spunking: A look at Uzumaki

Self-consciously arty, the Japanese horror flick Uzumaki (translated: Spiral, or Vortex), released in 2000, is, to the National Film Board of Ivanlandia, a failure.

The flick needed to be more exploitative—
it needed more cheap thrills, whether more gore, mayhem or boobs.

The film was certainly weird enough;
it’s just that it never got
For me,
Uzumaki never reached a crescendo or any sort of proper
it just petered out.

Sure, the flick’s clever. But how’s that workin’ out for you these days?

The biggest problem with Uzumaki is the female lead:
For no apparent reason, she remains blithe and clueless (almost stupid; perhaps brain damaged, or mentally retarded) while everyone around her is mutating or committing suicide.
Perhaps her behavior was meant to be unnerving, but without any explanation, she’s just annoying.

So this is another Ivanlandia entry into the
Final Girl’s Film Club Blogorama;
I bet most of the other entries will be more positive towards this flick—I can see why people might like Uzumaki.
But it just never clicked for me.

In my opinion, though, if you want some really TOP NOTCH Japanese weirdness/horror, I will say

Onibaba (1964) is utterly awesome:
An old woman and her daughter-in-law (both widows) live in the reeds near a river that’s near a battlefield or war zone.
The two women strip the dead and dying samurai of their armor and sell it on the black market.

A drifter enters their lives and romances the young woman, and the mother-in-law, frightened that she’ll be left alone to fend for herself, tries using the supernatural (I refuse to give away too much) to frighten him away.

An intense, almost raw film with some of the BEST black & white cinematography,
Watch Onibaba!

Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) is a Japanese Jodorowsky film. Nuff said. (But my review/comments on it are HERE, scroll to the end.)


  1. Nice one! Your photo at the top of the post has some added graffiti that translates as "I shat" or "I did a poop," along with a clever illustration, giving the standard anti-chikan poster a flavor of the scatological!

    I was gratified to read your review of Horrors of Malformed Men, which I loved. Whatta crazy movie! And you're right, it works because of its naive tone - there's nothing tongue-in-cheek, it's played straight, so you really cannot predict what will happen and the viewer ends up as shocked as the characters in the movie. I think you once told me that you really dig Ishii's The Mushroom People also.

    Your blog tags here make me worry. But trust me, if I ever start tagging my entries on Toe Stubber, I'll be using that M.L.I.S.R.N.A.I.W.T.D. tag as a public cry for help on just about every post.

  2. Let me get nerdy first: Attack of the Mushroom People - which definitely deserves a a space on the mantle in Ivanlandia - was directed by Ishiro 'Gojira' Honda.

    Horror of the Malformed Men is based on / inspired by several stories by Edogawa Rampo - Japan's Edgar Allen Poe (thus the romanized pen name). His stories are super creepy - I highly recommend him to Ivanlandia and Toestubber. Malformed Men was banned in Japan - something about the way they show the mutants / disabled. Japan attaches stigma to so many things, and tries to cover up the shame. In any case HOTMM is a perfect amalgam of arthouse posturing and exploitation excess. The participation of the Butoh master Tatsumi Hijikata helped kick this into gear as well. And what a great ending.

  3. Sq. Dave is right about me being wrong! But back to Malformed Men: I remember from commentary tracks that this movie is a random blenderful of unrelated Rampo stories, which makes it double-schizo. I like how those butoh sequences fit right into the story, as Dave says, mixing the arty with the trashy. And in fact, these interpretive avant garders are not even as weird as other parts of the film (including that hilariously strange ending)!

    Back to this post: I didn't like Uzumaki much... but have sat through much worse.

  4. You may want to die, but don't worry, YOU WILL DIE, yes, even YOU!!! Soon we will all be but a memory, and not long after, even the memory will fade away as those who knew us also die, perhaps horrible deaths! And then a tombstone with our stupid names will erode away in the violence of nature. And then in five billion years, the earth will be consumed by the expanding, dying sun which gaveth life and tooketh away! It's gonna be awesome, so don't sweat it, dude. The universe is running perfectly.

  5. According to google-translate, that last spam message says, quote:

    "Erotic oral sex erotic sex restricted Boba 18 dew point cut map graphic video Samaritan milk explosion wave naked nude nudes blow Ai-ai-free touring video chat with a diffuse yards a piece a figure one-night stand leaf passionate lover wife erotic photo beautiful babes self-timer self-timer Self-mei beautiful babes are being sneaked sneaked"

    I'm sure it's much more erudite in Chinese.

    I feel much better today--that WILL change, mark my words, but as Brian Wilson's uncle used to say, "Just for Today."

    And before I forget: BOOBIES!

    P.S.: Toestubs, thanks for the translations! I've been wondering what comments my Asian fans have been leaving! It makes me wonder if I should start moderating the comments here...

  7. Massacre all spammers, ravish their beastly women, enslave their subnormal offspring.

  8. "Boba," pronounced "Bwah Ba," means big breasted, big tits, boobs, whichever you prefer. Towards the end it says 'la mei' which literally means 'spicy younger sister' but translates to 'hot chick.' Much better than the spam I used to get. But the best was my friend Sherry had the word 'Jehova' as part of her personal e-mail address and used to get weird e-mails in Chinese asking for prayers to come true.