Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Uzumaki (2000)

Uzumaki (Spirals) Blu-Ray Artwork

Uzumaki (Spiral) is a Japanese horror movie based on a story from a manga comic book series. It’s divided into four chapters. The first one is “Premonition”. The other three chapters are “Erosion”, “Invasion” and “Transmigration”. Each one is crazier than the last, but “Premonition” introduces all the main characters and presents the idea that spirals may be something to be feared.

The central character in Uzumaki is a young girl named Kirie Goshima (Eriko Hatsune), who lives in the small Japanese town of Kurouzo. The second key player in the story is her friend Shuichi Saito (Fhi Fan). Kirie and Shuichi are obviously very close, but the lines between friendship and romance are a little too blurred to tell how they really feel about each other.

Kirie’s mother died when she was little more than a toddler and when her little friend saw her grief he swore he would protect her and now appears to consider it part of his life’s work.

Early in the first chapter, Kirie witnesses Shuichi’s father using a video camera to film a snail on a wall, and he is so engrossed he fails to hear her greet him. She mentions this to Shuichi, who confesses his father has been acting strange lately, and Shuichi’s overall manner indicates the matter is troubling him.

It soon becomes apparent that Shuichi’s worries are not unfounded. Mr Saito’s increasing obsession with spirals becomes all-consuming, and, when his ever-growing collection of spiral-shaped artefacts is no longer enough for him, he decides to take things a step further by committing suicide in the family’s washing machine.

Spirals turn up again and again throughout the movie and although some of them would be hard to miss, such as the spiralling cloud of smoke above the crematorium after Mr Saito’s funeral, other spirals, such as little swirls of dust, can be harder to spot. One unfortunate character even jumps—or possibly falls—from a spiral staircase, and the resulting splatter of blood and brains around his head forms the nucleus of a spiral floor pattern that, in turn, becomes part of the much bigger spiral formed by the staircase. Clever use of the camera angle exploits the effect very well, making it quite a memorable scene.

As with many Asian movies the use of hair is not forgotten, but in this case, the half-hidden face that is so common in films like The Grudge and The Ring, is forsaken in favour of a young lady whose hair becomes so outrageously curly—eventually spiralling many feet above her head—it is easy to tell the idea originated from a comic book. One guy turns into a giant snail. Another steps in front of a car and becomes wound around the wheel and the resulting impact causes the driver’s face to be thrown into the windscreen, where his dislodged eyeball becomes the centre of yet another spiral formed by the cracks in the glass. It’s messy, it’s unsettling, and all kinds of weird, but everything works very well and fits nicely into the context of the movie.

Uzumaki is an entertaining movie, and it is quite dark in places, but it is doubtful that anyone would ever consider it terrifying. There are a few nasty scenes that are visually unsettling, such as the one with the body wrapped around the wheel of the car, but the way they are shot manages to retain the movie’s comic-book feel in a way that makes it hard to describe them as gory.

All in all, Uzumaki is an unusual and rather disturbing movie that may not appeal to viewers who are used to the more traditional horror movie tropes—slasher, ghost story, vampire etc.—but will, no doubt, be better appreciated by connoisseurs of Asian horror. But don’t expect an explanation for why any of this crazy spiralling madness. The reason for the strange events at Kurouzo remains a mystery right to the end.

Uzumaki can be a hard movie to locate and, depending on your region, the best option to view it may vary. At the time of this review, and Amazon UK only offered the option to buy the movie on Blu-Ray or watch it on Amazon Prime. However, though harder to find, it should also be possible to source Uzumaki DVDs via alternative suppliers.