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Movie Review: Tomie: Re-Birth – The Living Dead Girl

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Tomie: Re-Birth (2001) directed by Takashi Shimizu, stars Miki Sakai (Tomie), Satoshi Tsumabuki (Takumi), Kumiko Endou (Hitomi), Masaya Kikawada (Shun’ichi), Shûgo Oshinari (Hideo), Yutaka Nakajima (Tomoko), Tarô Suwa (Haruo).

This is a Japanese horror movie. It has its roots in a manga by Junji Ito. I will immediately confess my complete and utter lack of knowledge of the manga in question. There’s a slew of Tomie movies out there, and this is the first one I’ve seen. I honestly can’t really tell the learned reader what possesses me as I chose movies, let’s just say the process is arbitrary at best.

The basic premise of the comic and the movies is that the girl Tomie can make anyone fall in love with her, that she inspires lust and jealousy in those around her, and that she is destined to be killed by those who love her – yet she always comes back. Hence the catchphrase “I will see you later” that she generously litters all around her at pretty much anyone.

This particular narrative starts off with Tomie getting murdered by an artist painting her portrait. She whispers “I love you” in his ear and he promptly stabs her with a trowel. So it goes. Two of his friends show up at the studio moments later and help him bury the girl in the woods. Let’s just say it doesn’t take.

Tomie comes back to haunt… well, haunt isn’t really the word. Plague might suffice. Bug works too. Anyway, she comes back and makes these guys' lives hell until they go all kinds of crazy and kill themselves. The women fare no better. They get possessed, they get what can best be described as ghost-sickness, and then they die.

The body count is high.

Despite all this the pace is slow, the sets are pretty quiet, there’s not a lot of gore. It feels to me like the movie makes a conscious effort to keep to decorum in the traditional sense of the word, which means to say even during a dismemberment there is still little to show for it except an artfully expanding pool of blood and Tomie’s severed head watching from a bowl.

You probably need to be a fan of the manga and the previous movies to get anything from this. I don’t have the cultural references for this, which means that I mostly watch with a tilted head and a slightly scrunched up face thinking “ah, I can see how this could be frightening, in theory.” I can make connections to things like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but that is not enough.

Personally, I don’t mind a slow-paced creeping horror, but it has to have the ability to give me the heebie-jeebies and this just does not do it for me. The slow pacing seems pointless, the pixie-cute girl with the tittering laugh is mostly just annoying, and I don’t really understand the interaction between the other players, so I am at a loss as to how to deal with it when it goes out of whack.

This is all probably someone else’s cup of sencha, it’s just not mine.

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