Tomie: Unlimited


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Tomie Unlimited
"Iguchi does not disappoint in this department with his entry in the Tomie series, although this is a more restrained effort than some of his earlier works."

Tomie is something of a horror institution in Japanese pop culture, though she is probably little known in the UK. Beginning as a horror 'manga' comic series of both separate and interconnected stories written and drawn by creator Junji Ito, the titular Tomie is (or appears to be) a gorgeous high-school girl in Japan, whose effect on men reveals her as a living embodiment of lust and and obsessive desire - desire that eventually drives men around her to murder her in a frenzy.

But though Tomie's supernatural allure draws men into destroying her, ironically she survives anything. Tomie is inevitably killed time and again, only to regenerate, each cell of her body, even a strand of hair, seemingly can regrow into another Tomie. The manga Ito explored this unsettling ability (similar in ways to John Carpenter's The Thing) in a variety of increasingly bizarre ways. Tomies would grow out of people's stomachs; ashes from her burned body would reform in clouds of steam to form a new Tomie; in one story her mangled corpse was tossed into a wine vat, only for the fumes from the fermenting process to become possessed by her spirit. Often in the stories, a lone witness to Tomie's power would struggle to resist her and convince others of the danger, only to watch as Tomie seduced and destroyed all those around them.

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Tomie is thus cursed to go on forever, each time finding new victims. As if mirroring this regenerative ability, the Tomie film franchise spin-offs seem to have gone on forever, too. The character has been endlessly reinterpreted through film, usually with a different lead actress and director each time, and director Noburo Iguchi's Tomie Unlimited is the ninth bite of the cherry.

In this chapter in the saga, Tsukiko (Moe Arai), is a young and shy Tokyo high school girl who belongs to a photography club at high school. She feels inferior to her elder sister, Tomie (Miu Nakamura), who is breathtakingly beautiful and popular among the male students. Among Tomie's admirers is Toshio (Kensuke Ohwada), whom Tsukiko is secretly in love with.

One day a bizarre accident kills Tomie right in front of her younger sister (a crucifix shaped section of scaffolding impales her). However, a year later Tsukiko and her parents hear a knock at the door. Unbelievably, it is Tomie. Bizarrely, the father and mother blindly welcome Tomie back, with only Tsukiko feeling uneasy. Before long, Tsukiko comes to understand what Tomie is. But not before everyone around her, even her parents, are being driven by the seductive power of Tomie into murderous killing sprees.

Director Iguchi is very much at the forefront of the Japanese cult gorefest genre - a Japanese grindhouse auteur, you might call him. From a background in the adult film industry in Japan, Iguchi is now a sort of one-man genre factory for extreme exploitation cinema. Those who have seen Iguchi's Machine Girl and RoboGeisha should know what to expect from this particular take on Tomie - a hysterical grand guignol affair with schlocky thrills, poor CGI, terrible acting, upskirt shots, Japanese idol models filling out the main cast, and ludicrous prosthetics with giant tongues and bulging eyeballs. Needless to say, Iguchi does not disappoint, although this is a more restrained effort than some of his earlier works (which is really saying something - perhaps he was mindful of the source material), and there is a surprisingly downbeat and melancholy ending to mull over.

There are some genuinely unsettling scenes that illuminate the nature of Tomie, such as when her father (Kouichi Ohori, who gives a performance so sweaty and hysterical it's quite absorbing to watch) is seen chewing obsessively on his daughter's hair, his borderline incestuous desire for Tomie so strong he literally must eat her up and take her inside himself. The Cronenburg-esque themes of bodily metamorphosis, familial torment and obsessions are things Iguchi has explored before, so it is easy to see why he was drawn to the Tomie source material. There is something captivating about the bizarrely hysterical atmosphere, with largely CGI-free prosthetic effects. But ultimately this campy horror concoction is for Iguchi fans only, or those who don't mind a more comic/exploitation take on the source material.

Reviewed on: 29 Jan 2012
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Tomie: Unlimited packshot
A photography student's life takes a turn for the worse when her dead sister is welcomed back into the family home.
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Director: Noboru Iguchi

Writer: Jun Tsugita, based on the manga by Junji Ito.

Starring: Miu Nakamura, Moe Arai, Maiko Kawakami, Aika Ohta, Kensuke Ohwada, Kôichi Ôhori

Year: 2011

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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