Friday, 4 April 2014

Tomie Review (1999)

The other week, I watched Tomie (albeit, half distractedly), and these are my observations of what I did pay attention to. The narrative began very disjointedly, and it was hard to get one's head around until nearer to the end. Comparatively, Audition did a far more successful job of piecing together a confusing story, while maintaining tension. There was definitely a token character in there with her breasts out to reign everyone's attention back in, somewhere near the middle of the film. Well, it was either that or the token lesbian scene. Oh wait, there's both.

Now, I am a big fan of Junji Ito's works, particularly Tomie and Uzumaki. However, I have not read either of each series in their entirety. In Tomie's defense I found it very likely, possibly for safety, that Tomie turned out to be lesbian (or at least leaning towards being) as a character. I can't quite put my finger on whether I believe she has emotions or not, but she certainly has weaknesses in terms of her powers causing men (mostly, anyway) to overpower her in their insanity. As far as casting goes, the actress playing Tomie looked... unusual, but the eyes were absolutely perfect. When I think about the scene where Tomie is trying to force feed Tsukiko cockroaches, I felt she lacked the threatening presence/unnerving quality Tomie might have.

Some further observations I made were, the soundtrack at times was extremely quirky and synthy, and reminded me distinctly of the soundtrack of Rubin and Ed. I found the track in particular, Funhouse 2 by World Famous, a Japanese electronic project.  The psychiatrist in the film also carried a very important message. Went along these lines; if you have a past that's a little less agreeable than you'd like, it's behind you and it's only 'your annoying self' left keeping you there. Wise words. However, in the context of the film I feel that it was somewhat ruthless.

Overall Tomie was vaguely interesting, but a bit slap dash and the story did not come together as well as I thought it could have. As a film, it also lacked the eeriness, hysteria and artistic quality of a Junji Ito manga, which Uzumaki seemed to preserve to some extent. This is the kind of project I'd expect to have careful attention paid to artistic direction when translating it into film, given the manga has a very surreal, Gothic and unnerving atmosphere. Could have been done better.

Overall rating: 4/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Horror Stories 2 (2013) Review

Horror Stories 2 is a Korean film directed (primarily) by Min Kyu Dong, consisting of 4 separate horror shorts, very similar to the narrative and style of V/H/S. The first story, 'The Cliff' involving a climbing accident (inspired by a webtoon by Oh Seung-dae) the second, 'The Accident', involving the car crash of three schoolgirls who fail their exams, and the final story 'The Escape', which depicts a version of a popular urban myth in Japan, Another World. These stories are all ventured into by a woman who can contact the dead, who is delving into fraudulent insurance claim cases. Numerous times I've heard that the original Horror Stories is much better, which I shall have to verify at some point.

With Horror Stories 2, I'm quite sure I didn't misinterpret the jovial atmosphere the film has. Especially in The Escape, as the apparent humour was what I perceived to be quite whimsical in its exaggerated nature. Particularly the genitals censored with an emoticon, as shown below. Also, how Byeong-shin shuffles away with his pants around his ankles back to the toilet, (and his general facial expressions throughout the short) after discovering the nature of his family in the alternate universe.

The deepened demonic voices seemed to have a quality of silliness to them too, as demonstrated by the Alternate World mother and the demon woman that came into the lift. While the imagery is no doubt horrific, the ghosts and creatures encountered definitely look nightmare worthy, there is certainly some gleefulness to be taken from these episodes. For example, I found something of a giddy tension during the narrow escape with the family peering in at the window. And how the guilty is taken revenge upon in The Cliff, where we may have first sympathised with the guilty character in question.

On first impression, the emphasis on Snickers bars I thought to be a very obvious and (perhaps) unintentionally amusing focus on product placement at the start of The Cliff. Well, at least the focus on Canon camera directly after the chocolate bar close ups reinforced this idea for me, as opposed to foreboding. Given the mutual fascination with foreign chocolate and sweets every country seems to have, it's hard to tell. Stylistically, segments of The Cliff were very reminiscent of V/H/S in found footage style, especially in the initial montage. The Cliff is in fact the most serious and engaging story of the three, and does convey quite a lot of agitated tension and desolation very well.

The Accident had, more or less, a very predictable twist. This was the least impressive and eventful of the three stories, especially in comparison to The Escape. The Escape was a dramatic ride from start to finish with progressively more insane feats and tasks. Which, despite his horrific trials and unfortunate end, you can't help but laugh at how impossible the notion of escape transpires to be for the protagonist. As is with all horror films, plus the exposition provided that the dead are being communicated with, the protagonists are all inevitably doomed.  Horror Stories 2 does a satisfactory job of elaborating on the fateful journeys in between, in a somehow tastefully ridiculous way. There was nothing I noticed artistically that was noteworthy, by way of soundtrack or cinematography like in Sick Nurses or Tomie (which I also watched recently). However, I thought the film was reasonably well put together, quirky, didn't drag in terms of narrative, and there was a fair share of frightening monsters despite the light-hearted tone. In fact, I sought out this film based on this gif. Creepy indeed.

Overall rating: 5.5/10
Humor value: 6/10

Reviewed by Abigail Lewis