Movie Review by Dennis D. McDonald
Remember the scene in Dark City where William Hurt visits a former police colleague who has retreated to his bedroom and is obsessively covering the walls and ceiling with spirals? The guy clearly knows something that others don’t, but he’s also acting nuts. The crazy cop’s behavior is very unsettling and is set off even more by Hurt’s calm and procedural attitude. Gradually Hurt realizes that Something Is Not Right with the World, and things spin out of control from there.
Now imagine a small Japanese town where a dark, malignant force is taking the physical form of spirals (or vortexes) as young people and adults are gradually consumed with fear and obsession that lead to insanity — and death:
- A man commits suicide inside a spinning washing machine.
- A photographer begs an award winning potters to create spiral dishes for him.
- Young people turn into snails and crawl up the sides of buildings.
- A woman cuts off her fingertips to remove the spiral fingerprint patterns.
- A high school “mean girl’s” hair is turned into a giant hydra-like nest of twisting curls.
- Ghostly faces appear in the sky in the spiral coil of smoke generated by a crematorium.
- A young girl walks down a dark pathway and is followed by almost-invisible curlicues of light that twist our view of the road.
It’s all very unsettling. Yes, there is occasional gory brutality, but it is the overall sense of dread and foreboding that permeates this film and takes center stage.
It’s not just the weird events that generate a sense of "other-worldness." The film is photographed and edited to emphasize dark corners, lonely streets, and oppressive skies.
Oddly, it is this remoteness that makes the film tolerable and — in my opinion — so fascinating. Things in this town are so weird that we cannot take it seriously. Yet, they are familiar enough to generate a sense of foreboding. It’s an odd balance and one that I have not seen before.
Review copyright (c) 2006 by Dennis D. McDonald