Tomie: Revenge Review
Another year, another Tomie movie as Ataru Oikawa, a Japanese director of questionable pedigree, brings his third instalment of the unconventional Manga horror to the home cinema with the R3 release of Tomie: Revenge. To describe the workings of the Tomie universe to the unitiated is somewhat of an impossible task. To sum things up relatively succinctly, the franchise revolves around its central character, Tomie, somewhat of a vengeful little madam whom refuses to die. Over the course of a handful of films (including some away from Oikawa's hands), Tomie seeks revenge through her ability to control and possess other characters, whilst simultaneously being bumped off and returning ad-nauseam.
In this instalment of the saga, a young doctor Kazue (Hisako Shirata) accidentally runs over Tomie deep in the woods. Chasing after her seemingly unaffected victim, Kazue stumbles across an abandoned mansion where she finds a young girl Yukiko (Battle Royale's Minami) near death. After rescuing the girl and taking her back to the clinic where she works, Federal Investigators inform Kazue that her accident appears to bear all the hallmarks of a Tomie sighting. As every incident involving Tomie results in murders, Kazue must attempt to help Yukiko recall the events that led to her disappearance in the hope of shedding light on the mystery.
Of course, anybody with any real experience of J-Horror will know by now that legible plotwork isn't always the genre's strongest suit. However, whilst the finest examples of the cycle utilise this to their advantage and eschew such conventional necessities with a miasma of striking imagery and effective shocks, Tomie: Revenge just sinks under the weight of its own incoherence. The film is devoid of even the most basic of construction that makes the story work, lacking characters, effective plotting, or even any real semblance of a legible story. No doubt all this will lead to it developing a viciously loyal cult following of fans who bemoan criticism of the film as the inherent flaws of people who 'just don't get it'. Will this entertain you if Tomie is your bag? Well it probably will. Does that alone make it a good film? Not a chance.
If we strip the key ingredients to a successful film to brass tacks, direction, acting and script all take prominence in the construction of a workable movie. Tomie: Revenge falls down because it's severely lacking in all three of these key areas. Ataru Oikawa is obviously hindered to a degree by the fact that his shooting budget looks to have amounted to roughly the same total as you would probably find dropped down the back of the average sofa, but that's really no excuse for how unbelievably cheap this looks, or for the uneven, almost glacial pacing of the film. There are a few obvious moments clearly intended to be standout set piece shocks, but a combination of amateurish budgetary constraints and the sedentary handling of the material serve to render these scenes somewhat pedestrian and redundant.
Unfortunately the quality of acting on the hole leaves a lot to be desired, ranging from virtually catatonic indifference to wide eyed hysteria with not a great deal in-between. The whole iconic talisman of J-Horror, the lank haired angel of death female, is fast tracking its way to passé with alarming velocity and the situation isn't helped by the casting of Anri Ban in the lead. Her pantomime performance would struggle to hold down a part in Grange Hill and, given the scant characterisation here, makes the title character equal parts dull and an irritation. In the actor's defence, it's not as if they are given much to work with, as the script and story arc head south from the offset. Maybe the subtitles lose something in translation, but the film seems peppered with dialogue so overripe it would make George Lucas blush. Any snippet of atmosphere or tension is thoroughly trampled by hapless actors spouting such gems of dialogue as “Tomie is existing infinitely in the woods!”. Indeed.
On the whole what we are left with here is pretty much one big mess of a movie. Limply directed and unconvincingly acted, this is a letdown on every level. It's a disjointed and unsatisfying affair that can't decide if it wants to be art or gore and fails miserably on both counts. Tomie can exist infinitely in the woods as much as she likes. Just as long as she doesn't make too many more trips onto DVD.