4.0 out of 5 stars Lovecraftian horror, Japanese style
“Uzumaki” is a bizarre little film, taking off from horror-master Ito Junji’s classic manga Uzumaki and crafting a disturbing tale of a small town’s descent into the overwhelming powers of an unknowable evil. Like all Lovecraftian horror, atmosphere is the important thing, rather than stories or explanations. The greater evil is fundamentally unknowable and completely alien, as well as inescapable.
In this case the evil is a shape, a spiral, that invades the daily lives of the town, causing obsession, madness and eventual death. (“Uzumaki” is just “spiral” in Japanese, although the subtitlers saw fit to leave it untranslated, perhaps so as not to confuse it with the Ringu sequel Spiral.) The shape begins to imprint itself on everything, creeping slowly into the lives and minds of the residents. The two most normal people in the town, a young high school couple Kirie and Shuichi, and the most resistant to its influence and must witness the disintegration.
While excellent in creating atmosphere, the film is not without its flaws. Most of the cast are amateurs, with “Uzumaki” being their only film. This was the first feature for director Higuchinsky, and he does not weave his story as fluently as a more experienced hand could have. The lead actress, Hatsune Eriko (Apartment 1303), is equally inexperienced but delightfully charming. She carries the film well, and I would like to see more of her.
Definitely not a classic along the lines of “Ringu” or Ju-on,”Uzumaki” is still a good film and worth watching. Fans of HP Lovecraft and his style of horror will be instant fans, while others might be unsatisfied by the lack of answers and clear-cut resolution.