Friday, October 14, 2011
2nd Annual Spookey Month: Uzumaki... spiral into... Halloween!
Ito Junji's disturbing horror manga Uzumaki was made into a film back in 2000. While the comic ended on a Lovecraftian note, the movie keeps the horror on a more personal level. Possibly because the budget for a more faithful adaptation would have been enormous. Uzumaki the movie is also pretty campy, sometimes substituting goofy comedy for the truly nauseating terror of the original. It's lots of good fun if you can stream it or Netflix it or whatever it is you youngsters do nowadays. But if you haven't read the comic, you really need to.
Unless you have a weak stomach. It made me feel queasy, but I couldn't stop myself from turning each page. Still, I would feel terrible if I became responsible for cookies being tossed, lost lunches or even a chuck being upped.
The middle chapters are a bit formulaic, but what a formula! Ito creates the perfect atmosphere of growing dread by setting up each vignette and letting them lead to each inexorable conclusion. When Shuichi's father kills himself under the spiral's spell, his mother grows to fear and loathe the shape to the point of injuring herself to rid her body of it. At one point, Shuichi consults with a doctor and in a moment of horror, realizes there are spirals just inside our ears. At that point, he'll do anything to prevent his mother from learning of this... The beautiful girl with the crescent-moon scar on her forehead. The classmate of Kirie's with the gorgeous, curly hair. The boy who likes to spring out at people and scare them. A slow-moving classmate during snail season. Pregnancy. A typhoon. It just gets worse and worse until only Shuichi and Kirie are left to escape, or failing that-- to confront the spiral where it's most powerful.
When I lived in Japan, I had a collection of delightfully disgusting Ito stories. I have no idea what the title was; it was all in Japanese. I bought it simply because I recognized his art on the cover. Inside were stories about teens with pimples, a bully who grew up into the worst mother ever, a particularly nasty circus and the absolute lousiest way to lose weight ever invented. Because I couldn't read it, a friend of mine translated it fairly loosely for me. It was also her first encounter with Ito's work and it cracked her up. Or maybe she was laughing at me for liking it so much.
I don't have a new (or even an old) Spookey clip for you today, but here's something you might enjoy: