Tomie (1999)

Manga creator Junji Ito grew up in a house where he was afraid to go to the bathroom, as it was at the end of a long underground tunnel filled with water crickets. While working as a dental technician, he was drawing at night and submitted a story to a magazine called Monthly Halloween that would become Tomie. The story was inspired by the death of a classmate, which Ito felt was odd that the boy just disappeared from the world. So he came up with the idea of a girl who died but just came back as if nothing has happened.

Director Ataru Oikawa didn’t want to make the movie version to be filled with gore, but more of a horrific youth drama. He still sought out Ito’s approval, taking parts from the original “Photograph” and “Kiss” stories and even had the creator’s approval for the casting of Miho Kanno as Tomie.

The police are looking into the murder of Tomie, a high school girl, which was followed over the next three years by the suicide or insanity of nine other students and a teacher. Soon, the detective assigned to the case learns that Tomie has been murdered and reborn in Gifu since the 1960’s, just as Japan joined the industrial era.

A classmate of Tomie, Tsukiko Izumisawa, can’t remember the three months around her friend’s murder. And oh yeah — her neighbor is nursing a strange baby that soon grows into another Tomie, which seduces Tsukiko’s boyfriend before attacking her at her therapist’s office by shoving cockroaches down her mouth. So our protagonist’s boyfriend does what any of us would do — he cuts the head off Tomie and takes Tsukiko to bury the body in the woods, which of course backfires. Tomie reappears and kisses Tsukiko full on the lips, who responds by setting her on fire.

That said, a few months later, Tsukiko begins to realize that she is becoming Tomie herself.

While not a horror movie, this certainly is a strange movie. For some reason, in the glut of Japanese horror that was badly remade in the U.S., this series never showed up. I would assume that’s because there’s no easy hook to grab on to.

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