Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 19th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2000
Writers: Kengo Kaji, Takao Nitta, Chika Yasuo
Cast: Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, Eun-Kyung Shin, Keiko Takahashi, Ren Ôsugi, Denden, Masami Horiuchi, Tarô Suwa, Tooru Teduka, Sadao Abe, Asumi Miwa, Saori Nakane, Yasuki Tanaka, Yuki Murakami, Maki Hamada, Tomoo Fukatsu, Akira Matsuda, Chino Mizuki, Takuto Oyama, Hassei Takano
DVD Released: October 13th, 2009
Approximate Running Time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
DVD Release: Eastern Star / Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: A spiral curse infects all the inhabitants of a small town.
This film was adapted from a three volume Manga series, also titled Uzumaki. There are a total of twenty stories which make up the three volumes. This series was created by Junji Ito who also created the Manga series Tomie. Even though the bulk of what is present in the three volumes which make up the Manga series is present in this film adaptation. There is still a sizable enough of the martial which does not make its way into the film. Narrative wise the film does suffer at times because of the way it doesn’t fully resolve some of the stories, while the Manga versions of each story all have clearer conclusions. Uzumaki was directed by Higuchinsky whose directorial debut Long Dream was also adapted from a Manga written by Junji Ito.
“I looked up Kaiki in the dictionary and found it meant, ‘mysterious and eerie happenings’. Such a ‘mysterious and eerie’ world felt very film-like for me. So I don’t consider this Uzukami film a horror film, either. I consider it a Kaiki film.” – Higuchinsky
While on the surface many of the trappings one would expect from a horror film are present in Uzumaki, the end result in much more in line with the ‘mysterious and eerie’ vibe that director was going for. The film features many bizarre moments like a man whose body is found in a washing machine, a stalker who is determined to leave a lasting impression with the girl he obsesses over (he is hit by a car and his body is wound around a tire), a girl with spirals designs in her hair, high school boys turning in snails and a boy who gets all twisted up into knots. While a few of these moments are shocking, there are no out and out frightening moments in this film. The films disjointed narrative that I touched upon earlier in this review may leave some viewers with a feeling of déjà vu or at least make you feel like you are running around in circles. The spiral nature of the films plot and its opened ended conclusion lends itself perfectly to the story at hand. Without a doubt the most fascinating and endearing aspect of this film is the way in which the material at hand lends itself to numerous interpretations. Ultimately Uzumaki is a hypnotic tale that quickly pulls the viewer in, like the spirals that possess all the characters in the film.
Eastern Star presents Uzumaki in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original aspect ratio. This transfer has not been flagged for progressive playback. Outside a few very minor blemishes this transfer looks clean, the image looks generally crisp and colors and flesh tones look accurate. Uzumaki had previous been released in region 1 on DVD by Elite Entertainment in 2004 and the transfer for this new release from Eastern Star looks to have been taken from the same source.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been provided. I did come across at least one grammatical error. The audio sounds clean and clear throughout. The 2004 DVD release from Elite Entertainment also came with a Dolby Digital stereo mix which has not been included with this release. It should be noted that the grammatical error that is present on the Eastern Star subtitle track is not present on the Elite Entertainment subtitle track. Also the Eastern Star subtitle track corrects the grammatical errors and areas of text which where not correctly subtitled on the Elite Entertainment DVD.
Extras for this release included a trailer for the film (1 minute 10 seconds – in Japanese with English subtitles) and two segments, the first one titled “Behind the Scenes”, that also features comments from actress Eriko Hatsune (10 minutes 43 seconds – in Japanese with English subtitles) and the second one titled “Camcorder Footage” (4 minutes 16 seconds). The main extra included with this release is an audio commentary / narrative track with director Higuchinsky whose comments appear on the track sporadically. The information which he relays does a good job conveying what he was trying to achieve with this film and he also discusses the Manga which this film was adapted from. Rounding out the extras are trailers for Ebola Syndrome, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Oh! My Zombie Mermaid, Sars Wars and Tokyo 10 + 1 (also directed by Higuchinsky). All of the extras from the Elite Entertainment DVD release have been carried over for this release. Overall Uzumaki gets a well rounded DVD release from Eastern Star.