Film

Movie Ramblings: Tomie Unlimited

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Warning: spoilers and Japanese style weirdness…

Some horror films take a while to get going and this one drags a bit for the first few seconds and then is straight into the action. Before half an hour is up the main character has died, come back to life, done some reasonably twisted things and died and come back again. What the hell is the remaining hour going to be about I wondered. I was still wondering exactly the same thing 60 minutes later.

As you might expect from an avant garde Japanese horror film, this movie makes absolutely no sense at all. Highschooler Tsukiko is traumatised when her sister Tomie dies right in front of her in a freak accident. A year later, Tomie comes back from the dead seemingly for the purpose of traumatising Tsukiko just a little bit more. A lot of weird stuff happens that may be real or may be in the mind of Tsukiko.

Tomie turns up all over the place to torment Tsukiko, here she is in Tsukiko's lunch box.
Tomie turns up all over the place to torment Tsukiko, here she is in Tsukiko’s lunch box.

After a creepy but moderately happy family reunion, things quickly take a turn for the sinister with Tomie seemingly punishing her family for something. She mainly concentrates on her sister, turning her parents and friends against her and destroying things and people she loves. Early in the film events are sinister but not very supernatural (if you ignore returning from the dead!) but quickly go the way of a lot of Japanese horror with writhing tentacles and gushing blood all over the place.

Tomie's head in a bin. Because when I kill anddismember my daughter, the best place to dispose of the body is in a wastepaper basket!
Tomie’s head in a bin. Because when I kill and dismember my daughter, the best place to dispose of the body is in a wastepaper basket!

One of the creepiest things for me was the fact that Tsukiko uses a Canon camera with a Nikon neck strap. Perhaps the film was sponsored by both manufacturers? Perhaps it is the movie equivalent of slightly changing a manufacturer’s name that anime and manga use.

You can't really see in this shot the bright yellow Nikon camera strap attached to the Canon 750QD.
You can’t really see in this shot the bright yellow Nikon camera strap attached to the Canon 750QD.

After about 45 minutes, I think it is impossible not to get lost, characters are killed and then come back to life and some are duplicated and killed and resurrected again, notably Tomie who eventually seems to be almost everyone. Some sequences appear to take place in dreams or in the imagination of various characters and the whole thing may in fact be the dying hallucinations of one character.

Disembodied Tomie head has a passion for caviar, of course.
Disembodied Tomie head has a passion for caviar, of course.

With this kind of film though it is the WTF factor rather than the logical plot that engages the interest and Tomie Unlimited has just about enough of that but I think falls just on the wrong side of the line between pure entertaining WTF and disappointingly confusing. It is not quite as weird as Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl or Robo Geisha for example and seems to take itself a bit more seriously than these kinds of movies but the sometimes slow pacing and strange philosophical leanings that come along with this detract a bit from the pure WTF and pulls it back down into the merely confusing.

Some of the later incarnations of Tomie: Centipede Tomie and Giant Head Tomie.
Some of the later incarnations of Tomie: Centipede Tomie and Giant Head Tomie.

Just like in a blockbusting action movie where you have to suspend your disbelief of an ordinary guy who can suddenly take out a whole squad of special forces armed only with a coathanger, in a pure WTF movie like Robo Geisha, your disbelief is suspended by default and nothing ever happens that would bring it back from hibernation. By mixing the WTF moments with more realistic sequences Tomie may be trying to do something clever like make you question the concept of reality but ultimately just left me confused.

If you enjoy weirdness and don’t mind nonsensical/deliberately confusing plots then you will probably enjoy this film.

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