A Review by Noah Antwiler
I've sort of been on an Asian horror jag lately. I've been pillaging Netflix and my rental store for most foreign-market stuff I can get. I've lately been of the opinion that American cinema is in a real dark age where screenwriters have just plain run out of ideas. I've noticed two pervasive trends when a studio wants to make a large production. The first trend is to grab up the rights to popular comic book characters and destroy their stories, characters, and histories utterly. Just take a look at Catwoman, which I don't think you can claim even references a comic book anymore-- it's been that savaged by Hollywood and Halle. You know, Catwoman is actually a valid comic book with an interesting character. You could have just-- oh I don't know... used that character and remained faithful to the story. But I guess then we wouldn't get to include Halle "I opened the door to black actresses everywhere" Berry. Wouldn't that be a crying shame.
The second trend I've noticed is where studios have really gone to the dark side: remakes. There's almost no reason to ever venture into remake territory. If it worked the first time, why insult the legacy of a previously great film? If it didn't work the last time, why in the hell are you remaking it into a much worse version? Some of the remakes haven't been TOO bad, but all I need to say to you are Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho. If anyone can tell me in what coked-out fantasy Gus Van Sant thought this would sell, my e-mail is on the main page.
Anyway, I think the Japanese have figured out long before us that comics are a gold mine for movie ideas. Subsequently, they've also perfected the art of screwing up comic book movies long before America did. Tomie is one such movie, translated from a popular manga. I entered into Tomie knowing essentially nothing about the movies or manga series, since I try to avoid spoilers like I avoid seeing Andy Dick on my television. Everything I know now comes from my half-assed research after the initial viewing. I do this research partly to know what I'm talking about, but mostly to figure out this incomprehensible crap that I just saw.
First, Tomie all but assumes that you've read the manga series and know already what's going on, because it doesn't stop for very long to explain jack to you. In this regard, the makers of Tomie give the audience far too much credit, because I certainly haven't seen it and I doubt all but the most rabid otaku actually have. The trick is making a movie that's accessible to everyone, not just people who are already fans. I wonder if this movie was successful even in Japan, because in my opinion, Tomie isn't even a car wreck of a movie. It's a traffic jam. Once again, I wonder if my bitching about Ju-On was founded, because at least in Ju-On, something HAPPENED. You at least saw people get stalked, terrified, killed. Sure, it was tooth-drillingly stupid, but it had some atmosphere and tension. I can't say that with Tomie, which has about as much suspense and tension as watching a TV dinner spin in your microwave. Actually, not even that much, because at least with the TV dinner there's some lingering anticipation about whether or not your salisbury steak is only hot on the outside, iceberg in the middle. I hate that. And sometimes you ask yourself "Did I punch holes in the plastic wrap?" "Will it explode or something if I forgot?" and "Is the radiation from standing so close to this microwave making me sterile?"
What? You don't think about that?
I also found out that Tomie is considered by other critics to be "the worst film of the decade." Well heck if I'd have known that I'd have picked up the movie a long time ago. You don't just throw out that kind of bile willy-nilly unless you mean it. If I'm going to be honest with you, though (and I am), it's not even close to being the WORST film of the decade. But it's definitely one of the most boring. As I said, it's a traffic jam. It goes nowhere, there's no good music playing, you're watching idiots just talking sometimes, and you can slowly feel your life eke away as you eye a piece of roadkill that's moving faster than you are. It's a horror film with all the scare slapped out of it. But the weird part is, they've actually got a great cast of actors assembled here. It's like they collected a dozen wonderful actors and actresses, and the writers were off somewhere playing SoulCaliber instead of working so the script never arrived. Tomie features one of the most insipid soundtracks ever conceived for a horror movie, along with the most arcane, witless dialogue I've heard in many moons. I can't even decide if it's the English subtitling that's bad, or if the film is equally incomprehensible in Japanese. I'm betting on the latter because there's no way this dialogue can make sense in any language, no matter how it's decoded.
The movie starts out following a young man with an eyepatch walking briskly along a sidewalk, clutching a shopping back closely to his chest. Clearly he's just purchased his copy of Madden 2005, has surrounded it with protective padding, and is hurrying it home to his waiting Playstation2 where it will remain enshrined for 12 full months. Then BOOM! Someone clips him walking the opposite way and he nearly drops the bag, tearing it open in the process. Eyepatch Guy protectively gathers up the stuff and surveys the damage. To our horror, we see...
It seems our depth perceptionally-challenged friend is carrying around a head in his shopping bag. I personally suggest a hat box or a bowling ball carry bag for their durability and comfort of the head. The real challenge is resolving those pesky drippage problems you get when carrying a severed head around. This is about the only legitimate scare of the whole movie, and it's pretty weak. This is coming from a guy who nearly wets himself playing the Silent Hill games, if that gives you any indication of how wussy I am. So it's pretty sad that the scares plateau before the opening credits even roll. Anyway, we cut to watching three young ladies farting around near some kind of park, talking about nothing in particular. Eventually one just wanders out of the shot and leaves. The other two sit down and start looking at some photographs. The protagonist of this little tale is Tsukiko, an astoundingly hot woman whose talents are criminally wasted in this film. The friend who took the pictures is a young lady who's teased her hair so much it should sue for emotional damages. The whole scene is really meant to establish that Tsukiko enjoys photography, which is weird because the whole photography angle never really pays off beyond giving Tsukiko some business to in every shot. Fiddling with a camera, snapping a picture during a scene, whatever. It just doesn't expand her character any further than "Tsukiko likes photography." Their scene is interrupted when Hairdo gets a call on her cell phone, which she quite rudely takes. For about a full minute, we 're left watching Tsukiko who's WATCHING Hairdo carry on a one-sided conversation. And it's not one of those plot-advancing phone conversations either, like "Yes Commissioner Gordon? What? The Joker's holed up in the abandoned toy factory across town? We'll be right there." It's one of those witless conversations that only women have on the phone. And when you hear only one side of the conversation, it goes something like this:
"Hello! Oh hi! Yeah. Oh I KNOW. Totally. Totally. Totally! Like--I mean--oh yeah, totally. I know. Did I give you my number? I did? When? I don't think I did. Really? I don't remember that. Yeah. Oh I HATE him. Yeah oh I just hate him. Yeah and I was all 'Yeah, I'll get right on that'. Hah yeah totally! Oh I KNOW! I hate that. I know!"
I have a sister; I know these things. Anyway, Tsukiko's got this look on her face as she watches Hairdo carry on this IQ-leeching conversation as if to say "My god, how can we have conversations this long and vacuous with so little actual content?" Eventually she loses interest and literally wanders home without comment. I doubt Hairdo even notices. Back home, Tsukiko heads up the stairs to her apartment, where her landlord heads her off at the top of the stairs. They proceed to carry on one of the worst-shot conversations in movie history, where the camera appears to have been placed across the street, pointed vaguely up the stairs. The characters are off-center, and their heads are completely clipped out of frame. What the hell is this?
The landlord explains that she's got a new neighbor downstairs, and this one looks much nicer than the last one, not loud and raucous like her previous neighbor. Only he's got some kind of hideous burn on one side of his face requiring an eyepatch and he carries a severed human head around in a Dillard's bag. But there's nothing to worry about; he seems a nice enough lad. "There are strange kids out there these days," the landlord cautions Tsukiko for some weird reason, "Lock the door. Bye!" Maybe he really did notice the severed head. You'd think the camera would cut away now that the conversation is over. Wrong! Instead, we watch the landlord take EVERY ACHING STEP DOWN THE FRIGGING STAIRCASE with the camera fixed rigidly in place to document every picosecond of this pain. Suddenly Kevin Smith seems a master cinematographer. At least his actors were in the shot.
After an eternity of the Landlord Stairmaster hour, we finally cut to watching Eyepatch. He's feeding the head-in-a-box a cup o' yogurt. I'm not kidding. A roach crawls into the box while Eyepatch just watches, and the head seems to happily chomp down on it complete with crunchy squishy noises. It doesn't take long for the head to projectile vomit all over the tatami. Since we're on the topic, here's what I think of this movie!
We find Tsukiko being grilled under a Burger King heat lamp, which is actually some kind of hypnotherapy that she's undergoing at a clinic. She and the doctor head back into the office, where the doctor promptly lights up a cigarette and leans back in her chair, inhaling as if the cigarette were scuba gear. I've never known a medical doctor in my life in ANY FIELD to ever smoke. Oh I'm sure they exist, but it's gotta be one in a million. Next-- and I really did fall out of my chair laughing at this, maybe the first time anyone ever actually has fallen out of a chair laughing-- Tsukiko asks if she can bum a cigarette form the doctor. AND THE DOCTOR GIVES HER ONE! Great galloping caca stains, whatever happened to "Do no harm?" I could just be blissfully naive, but to me the image of a medical doctor handing a cigarette to a patient is akin to Chuckles the Birthday Clown giving away nickel bags and teaching kids how to hit whippets. I'm not even one of those prudes who quotes those frigging annoying Truth ad factoids to people, I just find the whole situation goofy. Funniest of all is an overacting nurse in the background who starts wafting the secondhand smoke away from her nose in the background, making a pinched "eew!" face.
It seems that Tsukiko's undergoing hypnotherapy because she's having trouble sleeping, her dreams plagued by nightmares of herself being covered in blood and haunted by a girl named Tomie (gasp!). She's also got total memory loss from an "accident three years ago" whose specifics she can't remember, which appears to be the cause of all her nightmares. She was told it was a car accident, in which several classmates died.
I've already figured out the plot twist. Have you? Any time you've got a main character with amnesia and a pile of bodies stacked up in her past, it's because she killed them. She's Tomie. The only question is whether Tomie turns out to be a spooky girl with hair hanging over her face. 20 to 1 says she is.
Tsukiko goes home after finding her bike vandalized and broken to her boyfriend, Saiga. He serves up a nice dinner of spaghetti, which Tsukiko makes a point of photographing (?). Saiga asks what the hell she's doing because-- let's face it-- this is stupid. "It's summer homework," Tsukiko explains stupidly. Yeah, I'm sure that was on the checklist: "Take 8 photos of pasta at the same horrible angle." I also note that her camera is one of those crappy semiautomatic jobs that you'd buy at a supermarket, hardly a camera a serious photography student would carry. They've got these big blocky cameras with all the numbers and alchemical symbols all over 'em. Cameras that require tripods and have to be carried in cases like an assassin's rifle. Photographers give a crap about "depth of field" and lighting. I know this, because I took photography, and I was pretty damn talented in it! I had all the technical stuff down pat. If I wanted to, I could have probably been a professional. I was that good. I just had one problem: I couldn't think of a darn thing to take pictures of. Really, what does a junior high student take pictures of? His dog? Himself? An interesting shrubbery? I had nothing. TV had sapped all creativity from my tiny mind. I ended up getting a D in that course. But I never snapped a photo of my spaghetti; I had standards, damn it!
Saiga chows down, yet Tsukiko persists in snapping photo after photo of her SPAGHETTI like a complete twit. What is with her? When the Virgin Mary appeared in a Cinnabon there weren't this many pictures taken of someone's food. He finally tells her to put the goddamn camera down and eat, which she poutingly does. The phone rings and we're subjected to another one-sided woman conversation. The entire time, we watch Saiga looking dumbfounded at Tsukiko as this intensely stupid phone call goes on in the middle of dinner. This is the phone call in its entirety:
"Hello. Yeah. I just got back home. What? Nothing is new. What? Ah-- I can't go home, I have an exhibition at school. Don't nag me! I know! How many ceremonies do you have? It's just an excuse for the family to get together."
Abruptly the editor comes to our rescue and violently hurls us into a new scene with all the grace and subtlety of falling down the stairs. It's the kind of edit that you could sue for whiplash over. The new shot is an exterior view of Tsukiko's apartment that might as well have the subtitle "It is nighttime now." Inside, Tsukiko wakes up after a nightmare. We don't actually SEE the nightmare-- THAT would have been INTERESTING. After all this hype we hear about how her nights are unbearable with nightmares of her covered in blood, it might be good horror to...I don't know...actually witness these nightmares? Instead, we just see her wake up. The scene jumps to her with a shirt on (Noooo!) and getting a glass of water. The soundtrack starts making vague whooshing noises at the other end of the room, as if something scary is supposed to jump out. It doesn't. The phone rings (Noooo!) and I already start wondering if "Tomie" is Japanese for "Bubbleheaded Phone Calls." I'd laugh like a maniac if it turns out to be the Verizon guy saying "Can you hear me now?"
It's just a hang-up call. AAAAAH! SCARY! Someone dialed a wrong number!! Aaauuugghh!! I need a break! The Japanese must be much more easily panicked. I mean, look at 'em scurry around whenever Godzilla hits town. Cayacka cayacka!! They'd lynch the Jerky Boys in a New York minute. Tsukiko goes back to the doctor for another round of hypnosis to find out why she can't get any sleep. Maybe it's the phone ringing in the middle of the night. But she can't get in to see the doctor right away, oh no. First she has to wait while the doctor deals with an emergency case. So the movie keeps cranking the tension up by forcing us to wait in a doctor's office while a nurse prescribes medicine to a crazy woman. Nothing says horror like a waiting room, eh? Tsukiko finally lands back in her hypno-chair and starts cracking up when the doctor wheels out the heat lamp again. "It's weird to use hypnosis to find out why I can't sleep," Tsukiko giggles.
"It's not hypnosis," the doctor corrects her prissily, "It's hypnotherapy." Oh well please PARDON me, doctor, Clearly there's a world of frigging difference. "Not many doctors do this," she continues. Could that be because hypnotherapy is a load of dingo's kidneys? Even Doctor Phil would shake his head at this sham of a physician. Tsukiko gets hypnotized by the heat lamp, when we see...
Of course, this thing looks ridiculous and it doesn't hold up for even a moment's scrutiny, which is why you only see it for a fraction of a second. It's still not scary. We advance in time to find the doctor still chain smoking, listening to her audio recording of Tsukiko's hypnosis-- sorry-- HYPNOTHERAPY session. The name "Tomie" comes up again during the session, puzzling the good doctor. We then watch the doctor deliberately waste our time as she starts examining her empty pack of cigarettes as if she were reading tea leaves. Then she starts cutting up the pack with a pair of scissors. Excuse me movie, do you need me to be here for this? We're just watching someone piss away their afternoon by pretending to be working. What's worse than being bored? WATCHING someone else be bored. Good gravy I hate this movie. A knock comes at the door, and we meet another bland character to add to our story!
It's Shouji Harada, Criminal Investigator for the Police Department! But that name won't do at all, so I hereby dub him Superman! He shows the doctor an old class photo and starts pointing out that the entire class exhibits a rash of suicides, murders, and students who were sent to mental hospitals. Sounds like my AP English class when we were forced to read Bless Me, Ultima and The Sound and the Fury. But he also notes that the mysterious spooky transfer student suddenly disappeared soon after the class disbanded. Superman asks if the doctor minds if he smokes; little does he know that the doctor is the reincarnated Marlboro Man. "Nowadays, people hate detectives," Superman says philosophically. I rather like detectives, myself. "It's because every detective smokes."
Before I can even wisecrack about this, the doctor says "Are you sure cigarettes are the reason?" Hah! I love her. This is a prime example of the dialogue that makes you go "hmm."
Superman continues with his rundown of the case. It seems one of the students confessed to hacking the transfer student into her component limbs and throwing her away, but they couldn't find the body and "there was no evidence." What, beyond a machete dripping with gore and marrow, a confessing student covered in viscera, and a girl you can't find? I betcha Grissom from CSI could have cracked this case. Hell, even that David Caruso guy could. "We, the police, are at a loss," Superman moans, "We smoke more, and people hate us more." Again with the smoking? That's not it! People don't like you because you're inept and are generally unlikable! Shut up! Superman finally reveals that the missing girl is Tomie Kamakawi, whose face is violently scratched out of the class picture. Three years ago, a similar incident was reported by the Gifu P.D., right down to the same girl of the same name being hacked up into shoebox-sized bits. But Tomie's body just keeps vanishing from police custody.
But that's not all! It seems that Tomie got hacked up in Tsukiko's room, and Tsukiko shared a class with Tomie. It turns out that Tomie and Tsukiko where friends until Tomie stole Tsukiko's boyfriend Tanabe. Then Tomie got dead. Since Tsukiko appeared to have amnesia following the murder, her mom decided to spare her the grisly memory and just told her it was a car accident.
Hey, maybe I was wrong about this plot twist. I mean, Tsukiko can't be Tomie. There's documented evidence of them being two separate people, complete with photographs and witnesses who have seen them both together. The movie can't screw this all up by revealing that Tsukiko is Tomie now. Nobody's that stupid.
Superman's really desperate to find any information he can about Tomie, because it seems she's been killed at least twice. Plus, Tomie's name pops up a lot more times attached to lots of other unsolved murders in Japan, stretching as far back as the Meiji period in the 19th century. You'd think she'd be rather easy to catch if she never changes her name, but he's not a very good cop. They never caught Duncan MacLeod, though, and he never changed his name either. Must be a snap to be an Immortal.
Tsukiko's back at home, where we watch her organize her sleeping pills and animal crackers into a pattern on her tabletop. I'm not kidding. Then she takes out her camera and snaps a photo of this, which I imagine she's going to title "The Most Boring Moment of My Life." Downstairs, we see a creepy little girl with long hair hanging over her face.
BOOM! I knew there was gonna be one! It seems that the head-in-a-box managed to grow a new body and is quite happily brushing her hair. This appears to be Tomie, only this one's about 7 years old. Eyepatch tries to deliver some food, but is coldly rebuffed by Tomie. When he gets a little miffed at this, Tomie threatens him, and Eyepatch caves wretchedly into abject begging for forgiveness. It's clear that Tomie's got Eyepatch by the balls and she ain't afraid to twist.
Now we follow Tsukiko's boyfriend, Saiga, as he wastes time in a restaurant with his stoner friends. A lot of this movie is watching people doodle around and pretend to work. Although I imagine this is what most of the actual moviemaking process was like-- the director and actors pretending to work and smoking cigarettes. Saiga gets a phone call (Noooo!) and skips out on work. It turns out that he's meeting with the girl with the Fraggle Rock hairdo at a hotel for a booty call. I didn't even know the Japanese had booty calls. I want a booty call! Anyway, Saiga's been cheating on Tsukiko this whole time with Hairdo, which doesn't really make much sense to me. Sure, Tsukiko's a bit airheaded with this whole photography thing, but what idiot would cheat on a hot chick with some nasty dog-faced skank?
Tsukiko's still putzing around at home when she notices that her darkroom sink is dripping red food coloring-- I mean blood. In the sink, she sees a strange photograph of a girl that has "DEMON GIRL" written on it. By now, the sink is full of red water, and Tsukiko reaches in to take the photo out. And if you guessed a hand reaches out of the water to grab her, you'd be disappointingly right. A hand reaches out and Tsukiko wakes up. That was it? That was her much-vaunted nightmare? I see scarier things in the back of my fridge.
I'll spare you the details of the next five minutes, because even less happens than usual. That's quite a feat. We rejoin Eyepatch as he returns home. It seems Tomie's grown up into a young woman now, but still a creepy one with hair hanging over her face. "Did you kill her properly?" Tomie asks him. Eyepatch nods and Tomie says "We shouldn't be together anymore." Eyepatch goes on his begging campaign again, pleading her not to leave him. Who else would date a guy with a weird face? And he did so much for her, too. He carried your head around in a shopping bag, damn it! Not just every boyfriend would do that. Tomie responds by vomiting nail polish remover in his face, which probably didn't do his one good eye any favors.
"I will do anything for you! Anything!" Eyepatch moans.
"Then...die now!" Tomie commands. I wonder what would have happened in Purple Rain if Apollonia had called Prince's bluff after he sang "I Would Die For You."
What? You didn't see Purple Rain? Philistine!
Meanwhile, Superman swoops down to a crime scene, where we find one of Tsukiko's friends has been murdered. This is where we really uncover one of the major failings of this movie. We never actually see ANY action. It might have been frightening to actually witness the murder. Instead, we just hop from crime aftermath to crime aftermath, when the danger has already passed. I don't think we ever see a single person get killed on camera. By the way, someone should tell the dead girl TO STOP BREATHING.
Moving on to the restaurant Saiga's working at, we see that Tomie's applied for a waitress job. All the guys are busy drooling all over themselves and hire her immediately. The creepy manager is quick to point out that dating among co-workers is strictly verboten, but that dating the manager is quite all right! Eeeeeeeeew. Tsukiko is outside of the clinic for another session with the doctor. The doctor's trying to grill her for information about Tomie, but Tsukiko doesn't remember anything except that Tomie has a beauty mark just under her eye. The doctor finally seems to give up on the entire prospect of recovering Tsukiko's memory (probably because she's not a very good doctor) and explains that Tsukiko has a boyfriend, a life, and her mother. "But you only want to go back to the past, and you want to do it over again. But there is nothing in the past." You mean other than the multiple homicide by complete bodily dismemberment? "You have only your own annoying self." She's paying this quack?
Later, Superman drags the doctor to the precinct where they've caught Eyepatch for killing the Breathing Dead Girl. We discover that Eyepatch was also in Tomie's Class of Death, and that he escaped from the mental hospital a month ago for Grand Theft Head. Eyepatch tries to sass Superman, but Supes slaps the hat off of him and yanks the eyepatch off, revealing his horribly scarred face!
Wait, I didn't mean "horribly scarred." I meant "covered with a hilariously bad prosthetic." Eyepatch continues to persist in the classic Cops TV show defense "I didn't do nothin'," so the cop kicks the chair out from under him, sending him to the floor quicker than Mike Tyson in the second round. I think that's why people don't like detectives. Eyepatch starts jibbering uselessly. Stupid things like "Oh god, my leg!" and "I swallowed some teeth!" So Superman and the doctor head into another room while they discuss the details of the case.
"Tomie Kawakami was killed, and her head was chopped off. But her head was alive under the ground," Superman speculates. Yeah, that's feasible. But even he admits that he can hardly put that down in his report. But he also reveals that he doesn't really care about solving the murders. He doesn't even think Tomie is a human being! She's clearly an alien from the planet Zeist. It seems that everywhere Tomie appears in the stories, she's one spooky but impossibly hot girl. Any guy that ever lays eyes on her just goes gonzo and grows so jealous that he ends up killing everyone he sees as competition for her affection. But one of these guys always ends up killing her, too, to end the pain. But no matter how you kill her or chop up her body, she finds a way to reanimate herself through one of the pieces. It sort of sounds to me like she's not really doing anything illegal. Since when was being hot a crime? It's all the hormonal idiot boys killing each other. I think Tomie has legitimate grounds to sue for about a dozen wrongful death cases by now. Anyway, Superman only really cares about finally seeing Tomie with his own eyes, because he's horny and pathetic. If someone would just take this guy to a strip club it'd probably solve the biggest problems in his life. The doctor finally gets fed up with this ridiculous story and drives away.
Back at the restaurant, the Creepy Manager is beating the crap out of one of the chefs for flirting with Tomie. She drives men crazy, you know. The stoner buddy in the restaurant is also talking crazy about Tomie, and even Saiga's casting creepy stalker looks at Tomie's backside. That night, Saiga's sitting in the kitchen for no real reason, when the lights snap off and Tomie enters the room. She starts clumsily seducing Saiga by showing some leg and lounging on the counter. Oh so hot. Tomie's really not selling me on this whole seductress angle. I've seen better sex pitches from toothpaste commercials. Saiga's resistant at first, but soon succumbs to the creepy feminine wiles of Tomie and becomes her obedient sex zombie. It seems Tomie's only in this to wreak some kind of petty revenge against Tsukiko, because all women hate each other.
At another crime scene the next day, we see Superman surveying the aftermath of a multiple murder which we never actually saw. It seems all of the chefs and waiters at the restaurant have pummeled each other to death over Tomie. The centerpiece of the mass homicide is the manager, whose body is splayed out an open window upstairs, killed with an umbrella pushed through his head. Check this out!
I have to give this movie credit, this is great! Killed by eating an umbrella? Genius! I just wish I could have SEEN this as it happened! Come on, movie, this could have made you a classic if you'd put this on screen. Think of the upper-body strength it would take to do this. But whoops! What don't I see? Blood on the umbrella, tsk tsk tsk. Awwww I can't stay mad at that picture. Viva Umbrella Man! You have discovered Excedrin Headache #602! Superman paces around the crime scene rubbing his chin thoughtfully like he were some master crime scene investigator. Actually you'll notice he's always rubbing his chin. He sees the body of Stoner Dude and notes aloud "He's in the fetal position."
"What?" asks a random beat cop. They sort of look at each other as if saying "Uh...that's gotta be significant, isn't it?" before Superman wanders off to look at the work roster. People tend to curl up in the fetal position when they're getting the everlasting fudge kicked out of them, Sherlock. It's here that he discovers Tomie's resumé with her picture attached. Yup, the immortal demon from the 19th century has a résumé. I wonder what kind of references she has listed.
Tsukiko wanders out of her apartment and notices that her downstairs neighbor has left his door open, so she heads inside. This seems like a stupid thing to do, even if you aren't being stalked by a demon seductress, but in she goes to a complete stranger's apartment without being invited. The interior of the place is decorated in the classic "White Trash Trailer" motif, with garbage everywhere, fungus-ridden Cup-o-Noodle containers strewn everywhere, quarter-full beer cans arranged in awkward piles leaking putrid flat ale everywhere, and a dead girl with a bad hairdo near the bathtub. I should point out that at all times you see Tomie's apartment, there's this irritating song playing on a little boombox in the background. It's the same song, playing constantly as nightmare fuel. It sounds like Peter Frampton singing a Barney song using his talkbox. You remember, "I wanna thank you...." It's a tool that usually works to evoke terror and fear when you choose a suitably spooky song, like they did in Fallen with the Stones' "Time is On My Side," "Somewhere (Beyond the Sea)" in The X-Files, and Manhunter's classic nightmare song: Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." This song? Well...it just sounds like Frampton. You probably have no idea what I'm raving about, but trust me, the song isn't scary.
drr drr drdrdrdr DA DA DA DA drrr...In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida baby...don't you know that I loooooove youuuuuu!
*ahem* Sorry. I got carried away. Tsukiko finds that someone has actually managed to kill the Hairdo, but she doesn't have long to reflect on this discovery. A Completely Random Old Psycho guy runs into the shot and sticks Tsukiko's head into the bathtub to drown her. Who the--
Who is this guy? What's he doing in this apartment? "You can't do that," he howls, "You can't go into another person's apartment. You are a bad girl. I have to punish you." Oh, I get it! He's the Apartment Avenger, here to bring justice to those people who would unlawfully enter other people's apartments! Did Tomie suddenly become a lumpy swarthy man, or is it standard procedure to randomly throw in old men who run into the shot and kick people's asses for no reason? The experience brings Tsukiko to the point of death, much like this movie has nearly sapped all my life energies from my soul. This near-death experience triggers all of Tsukiko's memory to the fore, allowing her to relive the experience of witnessing her boyfriend Tanabe lop Tomie's head off. This is the first time we actually see a murder being perpetrated on camera, but even this is pretty disappointing since the entire time, we're looking at a bloodied Tsukiko whimpering while gross shlurpy hacking noises are going on off-camera. By the way, what in the HELL is THIS?
And huzzah! Tsukiko somehow finds herself back in the doctor's office. Her hair and clothes are completely try and nicely arranged, by the way. But it's not the doctor standing in front of her, it's Tomie! And for the first time, we actually see Tomie's face and...I'm not really impressed. I'm not being misogynistic here, I'm just saying she's hardly the sex-oozing succubus she's been hyped up to be. Saiga's wandering in the background rearranging the dead bodies, and Tsukiko's been tied to the chair. Now that Tomie's got Tsukiko right where she wants her, we can finally find why Tomie's got such a burr up her ass.
Tomie holds up the picture Tsukiko saw in her dream-- the one that says "DEMON GIRL." "You scattered this picture all over school," Tomie leers, "You did a terrible thing to me, Tsukiko...What do you think about how much I hurt when you called me 'Demon'?!"
Wait wait wait. Tomie...you ARE a demon. You actually admitted to being one. This is what you're upset over? She showed a vandalized yearbook photo of you around the school? You stole her boyfriend, you silly bitch! You're lucky she didn't kill you herself! You returned from the grave and terrorized Tsukiko over THIS? Great googa mooga some women have the longest memories for the slightest insults. I can't help but think Tomie's just a teeeeeeny bit petty, considering she's an immortal being.
Meanwhile, Superman's still at the same crime scene as before, overseeing the removal of the bodies. Here's my question: do you think the coroner would remove the umbrella from that guy's head at the scene, or would he just try to zip the whole shebang up in a bodybag? That'd be hard going if you tried to yank that thing out of there. You'd have to plant your foot on his forehead and pull...yeeesh!
Tomie's still failing to be at all frightening as she does such horrible things as sifting through her backpack, mocking her skill at photography, talking about how men are pigs, and trying to force-feed her some chewing gum. Yes, she's the psycho killer who makes her victim taste the real fruit flavor of Bubble-Yum! She's just not scary even anywhere near the level of Ringu's Sakado. She just comes across as a slightly whacked-out high school student, and I spent 4 years dealing with them. In fact, the only way that the film seems to indicate that she's scary is by placing the camera pointed at an upward angle so that she seems to be a looming presence. Good job, guys, you've figured out that slightly off-kiltler camera angles = scary. The climax of this "horrific" scene is when Tomie tries to make Tsukiko eat a cockroach. But she doesn't eat it. My heart was in my throat! Oh no! And then she follows this up by taking pictures of Tsukiko against her will! Someone stop this!
Saiga finally snaps out of his fantasy world and realizes that Tsukiko is way hotter than Tomie, and stops this horrible forced-photography torture by stabbing Tomie to death! Thank God, that camera's flashbulb can really make you see spots for oh, 5, 10 minutes! Pheeeew. Saiga finishes Tomie off with the bold battle cry, "There can be only one!" and chops Tomie's head off with his giant butcher knife. I wonder where he got that.
Is that enough Highlander references for ya? Sorry, I'll knock it off.
Superman arrives at the office 20 minutes too late, and surveys the scene while rubbing his chin the entire time. I've never seen anyone with such an itchy chin. Unfortunately, neither Tomie or her head is still there. Don't worry Clark, you didn't miss anything special. Tsukiko drives quickly to the deep woods and jumps out of her car with a determined look on her face. She hurls open the back door and yanks out a terribly fake facsimile for a headless dead body that weighs about 2 pounds, tops. I think she forgot the head, though. Tomie's decapitated corpse stands up and sort of aims in Tsukiko's direction. Seeing this is just about enough to take Tsukiko to Funkytown, and she hallucinates herself into a dream sequence. She's lakeside now, standing in broad daylight on a pier, surrounded by rowboats. Tomie confronts her here (she has a head now) and continues to smirk and taunt her.
"I have something to tell you," Tomie says semi-creepily, "Something very important that you have forgotten about."
If you say that Tsukiko is Tomie, I'm going to flip you off, Movie. I'll do it. Don't you say it.
Tomie gives Tsukiko a totally devoid-of-passion kiss and says, "You are me."
That's just it.
SCREW YOU, TOMIE!
I HATE YOU!
I HATE YOU!!!
Eat this, monkeyboy!
Oh god. Tsukiko and Tomie share a good giggle together until Tsukiko lights Tomie on fire with a road flare that she evidently pulled out of her ass. Later, we see that Tsukiko has actually made a career out of her photography. In her darkroom, Tsukiko catches a glimpse of herself in her own photograph and notices that she has the exact same beauty mark that Tomie has. Tomie rushes into the shot and hugs Tsukiko from behind, all chuckles and smiles.
It just doesn't make any SENSE! It's not possible! They're two separate people! People REMEMBER them as two people! They've been seen together! They're not the same person!
I call shenanigans!!