Review © Mandi Apple, 2002.


Directed by Higuchinsky, 2000, running time 90 mins. Screenplay written by Junji Ito, Kengo Kaji, Takao Nitta and Chika Yasuo) and starring Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, Ren Osugi, Sadao Abe, Keiko Takahashi, Taro Suwa, Denden, Asumi Miwa, and Eun-Kyung Shin. Based on the original Uzumaki manga by Junji Ito published in 'Weekly Big Comic Spirits'.

Welcome to the wild, whirling, weird world of Uzumaki, the most psychedelic, berserk, acid-addled, alarming, astounding, hilarious horror film ever. Go buy the DVD, and strap yourselves into your sofas, 'cos it's gonna be a helluva trip…

…when you were little, did you ever spend hours and hours running around in circles trying to make yourself dizzy, and then fall over laughing while the room span around you? Well, Uzumaki makes you feel like that all over again...

Those of you who are already au fait with the brilliant manga of Uzumaki (subtitled Spiral Into Horror and released in Europe by Viz Comics) written and drawn by Junji Ito will kind of know what kind of thing to expect - creepy, crazy, innovative, dark and twisted stuff. However, taking on the appallingly difficult task of translating it to the big screen is the first-time director Higuchinsky (no, he's not actually Eastern European, but Japanese pretending to be Polish, if you can get your head around such a thing).

And does he make a horrible botch-job of it as with the vile crime perpetrated by Ataru Oikawa on Ito's genius that is Tomie? The answer is a resounding HELL NO! Somehow Higuchinsky manages to achieve the utterly impossible: staying absolutely faithful to Ito's manga (almost frame by frame on occasions) and yet making the impossible not merely possible but actually plausible. Heck, if you thought the manga was crackers, you wait until you see the film! Frankly, you need to see this film. If you were disappointed with Tomie (and honestly, who wouldn't be?) and can't get enough of Ito's madness, this is the film you've been waiting for - something which does the manga real justice.


The film opens in the small town of Kuruzou-cho, a fairly isolated and insular harbour town dominated by wailing sirens and a mysterious lighthouse. The heroine of the story, Gosima Kirie (played very appealingly by Eriko Hatsune) is running to meet up with her boyfriend Saito Shuichi (played by an ex-male-model, Fhi Fan) when several strange things happen to her. Firstly, she is hit by a kind of tiny whirlwind, startling her.

When she resumes her journey, she spots another strange thing going on up one of the town's little alleys: Shuichi's father, Saito Toshio (the great Ren Osugi in brilliant form), is kneeling down by a fence. On closer investigation, Kirie sees that he is silently videotaping a snail. She calls out politely to him, but he completely ignores her, as though he can't hear her although she is standing behind him.

A little bewildered, she continues running through the streets, now late for meeting Shuichi, when all of a sudden, Yamaguchi (the charming and sinister Sadao Abe, who has the smile of the Devil! - move over, Jack Nicholson!), a young lad who gets a kick out of frightening people, but who has a giant crush on her, leaps out from behind a fence and scares the life out of her. He wants to get her attention all the time and begins stalking her… but his behaviour is deeply weird, even more unhinged than normal.

When Kirie finally meets up with Shuichi, she tells him about his father's odd behaviour, and he tells her that his father has been acting very strangely for quite a while; he refuses to go to work, and just spends all day long collecting and staring at spiral-patterned objects. In fact, later that evening, Saito-san visits Kirie's father Gosima-san (Taro Suwa) at their house. Gosima-san is a master potter, and Shuichi's father seems oddly obsessive about the way the plates are spinning on the wheel, videotaping them making spirals on the lens…

… however, it's not only Saito-san and Yamaguchi that are acting oddly: everyone in the town seems to be out of their normal patterns of behaviour: another student at Kirie's school is getting slower and slower and slimier and slimier, stops coming to lessons unless it rains, and there's a weird spiral pattern forming on his back… somebody steals the spiral-shaped sign from outside the hair salon… a very strange girl at Kirie's school named Sekino (Hinako Saeki) tells Kirie and her friend Ishikawa (Asumi Miwa) that her only interest in life is attracting other people to her, and odd things start happening to her hair….

As his father's sanity fails, and his mother Yukie (Keiko Takashi) develops a phobia of spirals, Shuichi comes to an outlandish conclusion: that the whole town is cursed! But how can they escape from their doom? Where's it all going to end? And what on earth could be causing this bizarre collective madness?!

From start to finish, Uzumaki is a rollercoaster ride of non-stop schlock-shocks, one of the oddest films I've ever seen, and a complete hoot. Tinted throughout in a bizarre green colour, and featuring little tricksy gimmicks like camera-wipes and tiny digitized spiral shapes that form and deform in strange places throughout (you'll find yourself playing Spot-The-Spiral after a while), it's a joy for the eyes as well as the brain.

However, one small - nay, tiny - criticism of the film is that you genuinely don't know if Higuchinsky is playing his film for laughs or for chills. The Ito manga is quite certain of its intention to scare and disorientate; however, the film really isn't at all frightening. Insane, yes; silly at times, yes; dispensing eye-bulging shocks every few minutes, yep, that too. But no atmosphere of tension or dread as in the original manga. That said, Uzumaki is a total triumph: a hugely enjoyable pop-cult scream, and worth buying to watch again and again.


Scan from Junji Ito's original Uzumaki manga

Scan from Junji Ito's original Uzumaki manga

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 11/10
Sex: 0/10
Violence: 6/10
Shock Rating: frequent and funny
Scare Factor: 1/10
Hilarity Factor: 100/10
Spirals - you count 'em!

Uzumaki Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Larry D Burns, 2003

Snowblood Apple Filmographies:
Ren Osugi
Keiko Takahashi
Sadao Abe
Eriko Hatsune
Hinako Saeki
Taro Suwa
Asumi Miwa

Links - supercool official theatrical-release flash site, with synopsis, notes on cast and crew, interviews, streaming trailers (including a music video for the great credits playout by Do As Infinity!) and even a contest to win some really fine Uzumaki prizes :-) - Artsmagic are releasing films like Uzumaki, Wild Zero and Junk for the first time in the UK with English subtitles and reworked covers - finally no need for a multiregion DVD player (if you're in Europe, of course...)
There is another official and excellent Viz Comics website for Uzumaki here:
This page has quite a lot of screenshots:
There are plenty of reviews here:
and a great review here:
Alexis Glass owns and runs the fabulous which is a very dedicated page about Junji Ito and his work, with many links and news items.

text, webdesign (c) 2002 M. Apple. All characters, situations and images remain the property of their respective owners. The text and webdesign of this site may not be copied, reproduced, mirrored, printed commercially or ripped off in any other way. Do not hotlink directly to images hosted on this site.