Friday, March 12, 2010

'Tomie: Replay' is a rare sequel
that improves on the original

Tomie: Replay (2000)
Starring: Sakaya Yamaguchi, Yosuke Kubozuka, Masatoshi Matsuo, and Mai Hosho
Director: Tomijiro Mitsuishi
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Yumi (Yamaguchi) receives her father's journal following his disappearance, and she discovers that a name keeps coming up in it: Tomie. Meanwhile, Fumihito (Kubozuka) discovers that his best friend Takeshi (Matsuo) has become obsessed with a girl named Tomie. An accidental meeting between the teens cause them to combine their efforts to locate this mysterious woman, but when they eventually do, they discover that Tomie (Hosho) is beauty and beast wrapped into one.

After the first, awful "Tomie" movie, I almost didn't bother with this one. That first Tomie film is so bad that I posted my review of it at the Movies to Die Before Seeing blog instead of here.

I'm glad I did decide to watch more Tomie films, as "Tomie: Replay" is closer in tone and approach to the original Junji Ito "Tomie" stories, and it has some thoroughly scary moments in it. It also sheds some light on the character of Tomie, giving her an almost sympathetic side. (I say "almost", because she is a monster, through and through.)

Among the highlights of this "Tomie" film (aside from the above-mentioned effort to add a little depth to the monster behind the perfect beauty), there are some nice sequences involving Tomie "regenerating" in more than one place at once that underscore how deadly and destructive her full potential might be. The film also offers a way to kill Tomie for good. It's something that I don't recall from the comic, but it's something that explains why she keeps coming back from the dead. It's an effective departure from the comics that enhances the source material instead of detract from it.)

The film is not without its flaws, though. The frightening scenes (like when Yumi and Fumihito visit Takeshi's apartment, when Yumi's father resurfaces, and when Yumi finally comes face to face with Tomie) are separated by stretches where the film feels like it is being performed by sleepwalkers. Oddly, Tomie feels like the most alive character in the entire film, because she is the only character that projects energy outside scenes of horror. Despite the extremely low-key acting, the movie never gets boring--there's a sense of tension and dread throughout from the opening scene to the very end.

"Tomie: Replay" is a flawed film, but it captures the work of Junji Ito nicely. I think it's worth seeing. However, I post this, "Tomie: Replay" appears to be out of print on DVD, both as a stand-alone and in a multipack.

NOTE: For those who might not be familiar with this film series, "Tomie" was originally a series of comic book horror shorts from Japanese writer/artist Junji Ito. In those tales, Tomie is a mysterious creature that looks like a gorgeous teenaged girl but who inspires the most violent of passions in any man she deals with. Gory murders follow, usually including the death (and rebirth) of Tomie herself. It's a very creepy series and well worth checking out if you enjoy well done horror comics.

If you want to read my review of the original "Tomie" film, click here.

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