A popular, heavily
sequalized Japanese horror-fest, one of several to follow in the wake of the
phenomenally successful RINGU. That film’s influence is evident in TOMIE, which
deals with the consequences of a horrific past event, featuring many ghostly
occurrences and the eternal horror Asian moviemakers seem to feel for women with
long black hair.
TOMIE (1998) was based on a widely read manga by Juni Ito (creator
of the far more original graphic novel/movie UZUMAKI), his first published work
(which is evident). The film featured several veteran genre performers in the
cast, including Tomoro Taguchi (from TETSUO: THE IRON MAN), Miho Kanno
(HYPNOSIS) and Kenji Mizuhashi (KAIRO), and met with a fair amount of success in
its native Japan. TOMIE even amassed some popularity in the West via the
DVD market (legitimate release DVDs, courtesy of Adness America, who also made
four of the sequels available, didn’t appear until 2003).
TOMIE’S inevitable succession of sequels and remakes is
nearly as complex as that of RINGU’S notoriously convoluted lineage: in addition
to a quickie made-for-TV remake called TOMIE: ANOTHER FACE (1999), it spawned
the follow-ups TOMIE: REPLAY (2000), TOMIE: REBIRTH (2001), TOMIE: BEGINNING
(2005) and TOMIE: REVENGE (2005) as well as TOMIE: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2002).
A man discovers an errant bag on a sidewalk one day; peeking inside, he’s
shocked to find an eyeball staring back. He takes the bag, with its humanoid
thing within, home. There he feeds the creature, which quickly sprouts into a
teenaged girl with (gasp!) long black hair.
Around the same time a traumatized young woman named Tsukiko is being
treated for memory loss. Two years earlier she was involved in a horrific
accident involving several classmates that somehow claimed the life of one of
them, a girl named Tomie. Tsukiko’s attractive female psychiatrist delves into
her buried memories via hypnosis, not liking what she finds: it seems Tomie had
a strange effect on everyone she came into contact with, and that Tsukiko and
her friends dubbed Tomie a “Demon Girl”.
Meanwhile the teenaged girl who grew from the thing in the box--who, as you
might have guessed, is Tomie reincarnated--has taken a job as a waitress in a
classy restaurant, where she’s driving all the male staffers mad. Around the
same time several suspicious deaths are uncovered, all connected in some way to
Tsukiko suffers an injury and is confined to a hospital, where Tomie
approaches and forces Tsukiko to confront the buried secret she previously
couldn’t remember: she and her friends actively participated in Tomie’s brutal
murder. But now Tomie is back to avenge her killing, and, as Tsukiko is about
to discover, will not die!
As one who normally admires the deliberate pacing of Asian horror fests
(usually a welcome break from the music video-inspired cutting of so many
Hollywood flicks), I’ll have to admit I found TOMIE a bit too slow for its own
good. This is one of the few movies you can watch on permanent fast forward and
still get the same effect as you would without it--well, maybe: director Ataru
Oikawa does manage to work up a fairly creepy atmosphere, often by simply
holding on seemingly banal shots for interminable periods of time.
That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the story
contains little that’s fresh or unpredictable, especially if you’ve seen the
abovementioned RINGU or any of its innumerable offspring. Also, the long black
hair business for me got old long, long ago. Nobody appears to have told
Oikawa, though, as he milks it for all its worth, photographing the unearthly
title character more often than not from the back, so we can shiver at the sight
of her black locks--or at least, maybe you can. As for me, I’ll do my
Daiei Pictures, Inc.
Director: Ataru Oikawa
Producers: Tsutomu Tsuchikawa, Mikihiko Hirata, Junichi Matsushita, Ken Takeuchi
Screenplay: Ataru Oikawa
Cinematography: Kazuhiro Suzuki
Cast: Mami Nakamura, Yoriko Douguchi, Kouta Kusano, Tomoro Taguchi, Miho Kanno