A surreal fairy tale that coils in on itself like a slow-motion whirlpool and achieves an atmosphere of sublime creepiness without ever precisely making sense. Pretty high school student Kirie (Eriko Hatsune) lives in the small coastal town of Kurozo-Cho. She's an average student, a friendly, well-adjusted girl who isn't part of the in-crowd but isn't an...read more
A surreal fairy tale that coils in on itself like a slow-motion whirlpool and achieves an atmosphere of sublime creepiness without ever precisely making sense. Pretty high school student Kirie (Eriko Hatsune) lives in the small coastal town of Kurozo-Cho. She's an average student, a friendly, well-adjusted girl who isn't part of the in-crowd but isn't an outcast either. She loves her widowed father, a prize-winning potter (Tarou Suwa), and has a sort-of boyfriend in Shuichi (Fhi Fan), a childhood playmate who's matured into the kind of moody, introspective teenager who'll probably wind up in an art-goth band. Nothing much happens in Kurozo-Cho the local cop (Denden) has so little to do that he lives to chastise teenagers for riding two to a bicycle until Shuichi's dad (Ren Osugi) starts acting strangely. He becomes obsessed with spirals, from the elegant helix pattern of snail shells to loosely coiled plumes of smoke and the pink swirl in the middle of the processed fishcakes that his long-suffering wife, Yukie (Keiki Takahashi), puts in miso soup. He stops working, fills the house with spiral objects and spends hours videotaping natural spirals. No good can come of this, and none does. Shuichi's father commits suicide in a bizarre manner, and his wife develops a pathological horror of the spirals that defined her husband's mania; it drives her to pare off the whorls of her own fingerprints, and she must be hospitalized for her own safety. The mania spreads: Kirie's father is mesmerized by the vertiginous vortex of clay on his spinning potter's wheel, while Sekino (Saeki Hinako), the most popular girl at school, teases her hair into an ever higher mass of corkscrew curls. Other students undergo peculiar physical mutations: One student starts coming to school only when it rains, covered with a viscous slime; another drinks water compulsively, and seems to have some kind of shell-like growth on his back, hidden by his T-shirt. Based on a popular manga by Junji Ito and directed by music video-trained Akihiro Higuchi, this deliriously unsettling film evokes H.P. Lovecraft's exquisitely creepy stories of encroaching madness not so much in story terms but in its perversely spooky ambience with a subtle dose of David Lynch's dark sense of humor. Not so much scary as just plain weird, this handsome film is utterly hypnotic and strangely disquieting, like a half-remembered dream.
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