Uzumaki aka Spiral (2000)
Synopsis: A man obsessed with spiral imagery takes his own life, and soon the rest of the town becomes equally enamored by the mysterious designs. More deaths happen as the obsession grows, but the mystery deepens when people start changing physically including a student who’s always late to class who grows a snail shell on his back , and a girl whose sole concern in life is being noticed who finds her hair growing into a massive set of spirals the size of a Toyota Prius. A tsunami builds out at sea, a storm cloud appears above, and the town descends further into weirdness, physical manipulation, and madness.
Killer Scene: There’s no actual death in this scene and like the rest of the film it’s far from traditional horror, but it gives a good idea of the film as a whole. A local news report about the strange occurrences in the town opens with a graphic stating “Giant Snails Invade Local High School” before cutting to footage of human/snail hybrids climbing the outside of the school. You can hear the students moaning and combined with the amateurish shaky cam makes for a very unsettling little scene.
Violence: A guy falls/jumps to his death… smack dab onto the middle of a spiral floor design! A man climbs into a washing machine and dies… by spinning and stretching into a fleshy spiral! A woman cuts off the tips of her fingers with a pair of scissors… because her finger-prints are shaped like spirals! A guy is struck by a car and killed… and ends up wrapped around the tire in a bloody spiral! The car’s driver slams his head into the windshield… causing the glass to crack in a spiral design with his detached eyeball at the center of it! A giant millipede eats it’s way into a woman’s ear… and err, they form a spiral when they curl into a protective ball! A woman stabs the side of her own head with a broken vase shard… because the dead man under her bed told her there’s a spiral deep in her ear! A guy’s body contorts uncontrollably breaking bones and tissue along the way… and ends up looking like an unbaked spiral breadstick!
Sex: Sadly, the film is utterly lacking in the sex department. That’s unfortunate for any film, but it should never be allowed to happen in Japanese movies. The lead heroine does spend almost the entire film in her schoolgirl outfit, so that’s something. Oh, and the girls gym class doing splits over the pommel horse is pretty good too.
Scares: There are several jump-scares that come mostly courtesy of a character named Yamaguchi who likes to pop out and surprise the girls, and others that involve quick flashes of spiral imagery and odd physical effects. The rest of the film relies more on it’s uber-creepiness for the scares and succeeds pretty well.
Final Thoughts: This is one weird ass movie. Not only is the horror at the heart of it all an innocuous spiral design, but director Higuchinsky messes with the viewer in plenty of other ways too. A character is introduced with the screen flipped upside down then sideways. A conversation between a couple cuts away to a throwaway shot of someone walking but played in reverse. Two girls conversing while walking down a hallway seem oblivious to the silent students lined up against the walls around them with their heads down. A man starts rolling his eyes and soon they bulge and spin faster and faster in opposite directions. And that’s just a very small sampling of the visual liberties taken here. The film ends with a series of still shots shown bit by bit that make for one of the creepier endings I’ve seen in quite some time. Folks who need everything to make sense should probably avoid Uzumaki, but fans of atmosphere, creativity, and multiple WTF moments should definitely check it out.