Wednesday, June 4, 2008

REVIEW: Imprint - Takashi Miike (2006)

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

Takashi Miike's hour long entry in Showtime's "Masters of Horror" TV series was the rather controversial "Imprint". Even though they are a cable network, Showtime turned it down and never aired it as part of the series. It survives uncut however on DVD. Up front, I credit Miike for making a film that almost no one else could or would. He succeeds remarkably well in utterly disturbing the viewer and providing totally horrifying circumstances. And yet, I couldn't possibly say that I was entertained...Nor can I imagine recommending this to anyone as each person's reaction to certain sections of it will be extremely personal.

The basic story has an American man (played by Billy Drago in a very odd way) searching for his lost love - a young prostitute he had promised he would one day return to find. He winds up at a brothel on a remote island and meets a disfigured woman who actually knew his lover. She tells him about the events that occurred as well as her own back story, but leaves out details that emerge in subsequent re-tellings as Drago continues to press. The first half of the film is quite good - we still aren't sure where things are headed and are treated to some ravishing colours and sets. There's also an extremely spooky ghostly apparition in this section of the film that matches some of the best of the J-Horror genre in its subtlety and high creepy factor. Just as you notice it, the film cuts away and I expect that most people will rewind saying to themselves "Did I just see that?". I know I did.

And then...Well, let's just say that there's a shift in tone. Three separate events happen: 1) a torture sequence, 2) the unveiling of the truth about the disfigured woman's mother and 3) the appearance of the disfigured woman's "sister". The first is wholly effective at making you want to completely avoid looking at your screen while the second is absolutely the main reason why Showtime would not air this episode...It's not only the imagery you see on the screen, but also the context in which it occurs and the casualness brought to the actions that is so very unsettling. The third event is both laughably ridiculous and really disturbing at the same time. During this last half of the film there really aren't many scares, but certainly plenty of horror.

I think Miike achieved exactly what he set out to do. So given that, buyer beware...

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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