Saturday, April 3, 2010

'Tomie: Forbidden Fruit' can be left alone

Tomie: Forbidden Fruit (aka "Tomie: The Final Chapter") (2002)

Starring: Nozomi Ando, Aoi Miyazaki and Jun Kunimu
Director: Shun Nakahara
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

The lives of middle-aged widower Kozu (Kunimura) and his lonely, outcast teenaged daugther (Miyazaki) are turned into a morass of nightmares and violence when she is befriended by a new girl at school, Tomie (Ando).

"Tomie: Forbidden Fruit" is the fifth movie based on Junji Ito's supremely creepy "Tomie" horror comics about an unkillable girl/ghost/demon who uses her women wiles to lead men to cause suffering, mayhem, and death whereever she goes. More often than not, Tomie herself dies horribly during the mayhem, but she always comes back from death in ways that are more horrific than the time before.

Like most of the "Tomie" movies, "Forbidden Fruit" never manages to inspire in the viewers the horror and dread that Ito's tales do. In fact, the emotion you'll feel most often while watching this film is boredom. particularly if you've read the comics or seen any other of the "Tomie" films.

There is very little new that's brought to the Tomie tales with this film. The only interesting aspect of the story is that Tomie is two generations of the same family in the film, trying to twist both father and daugther to her will. But this is really too small of an aspect to make the film worth your time.

The film is further dragged down by some very bad choices on the part of the writer and director. Tomie has never come across as the smartest of demons/temptresses, but here she comes across as downright stupid. Early in the film, she tries to get Kozu to kill his daughter "so they can be together like before" but this causes him to turn on her and cleave her skull with an axe--it makes him see her for the monster she is. Later, during the movie's climax, she tries the same trick again. It didn't work the first time, so why does she think it'll work the second time?

To make it even worse, this replay of the "kill your daughter so we can be together" ploy is part of a a final five-ten minutes of run-time that ruins what could otherwise have been an incredibly creepy "happy ending" with both father and daughter gazing upon Tomie frozen inside an ice block while eating potato chips and agreeing on how pretty she is and how much they both love her.

It could be the filmmakers were trying to illustrate that Tomie is all about repeating patterns, but all they ended up doing was screwing up a potentially great ending, a screw-up so bad that it cost the film at least one Rating point, perhaps even two. (Heck, if they'd gone with the movie's REAL ending--with Tomie frozen in the ice block--it could even have lived up to the film's title.)

Although well-acted and featuring moody and well-executed camera work, "Tomie: Forbidden Fruit" is done in by a weak script that fails to live up to the potential of the source material and a desire to heavy-handed drive home the point that there is never a "final chapter" where Tomie is concerned. (BTW, I don't really spoil anything by revealing that Tomie gets frozen in an iceblock toward the end of the film. It's an event that's telegraphed early on, and you'd have seen it coming even if I hadn't mentioned it.)