Judge Joel Pearce was shocked to discover that Tomie isn't deaf, dumb, or blind, nor does she play a mean pinball.
I'll show you what Hell is really like…
There have now been around six film adaptations of Tomie, a Japanese manga focusing on an evil girl with mysterious powers. The most recent is Tomie: Beginning, an attempt to go back to the start of the story.
A classroom in rural Japan is shaken up with the arrival of Tomie (Rio Matsumoto), a new girl who has transferred from the city. Their new classmate is gorgeous, instantly capturing the attention of the boys and the jealousy of the girls. It's soon uncovered that wherever Tomie goes, trouble seems to follow. This isn't much of a surprise, considering that she has mystical powers, regenerates if wounded, and lives to destroy the lives of the people around her. The initial distaste for the beauty soon turns to fear and horror as these troubles escalate. But how can she be stopped?
Although this is my first introduction to the Tomie story, I suspect that the original manga series must have a number of interesting things to say about the teenage experience. After all, didn't we all have a girl a bit like this in high school? Some girls have an unnatural beauty, creating an imbalance in the relationships of the people around them. Boys are obsessed with them, and girls are jealous even as they want to be in the same clique as them.
Unfortunately, Tomie: Beginning quickly shrugs off any connections to real world experience, choosing instead to dwell on ridiculous melodrama and cheesy gore. The story is told through the eyes of two of Tomie's classmates, reminiscing at a high school reunion that only they attended. The story they tell doesn't have enough horror, and has far too much exposition. Those of us who watch Asian horror regularly are used to the flashbacks that explain why the ghost is so angry. Tomie: Beginning feels like one of those sequences, stretched out to feature length. By the time it starts to use science to try to explain Tomie's supernatural powers, even the least demanding horror fans will be bored out of their minds. There are some gory sequences towards the end of the film, but it has completely stopped making sense by that point so we don't even care about the characters anymore. Incidentally, why oh why do they keep trying to kill her the same ways? Don't these people ever learn?
The performance by relative newcomer Rio Matsumoto as Tomie is the only decent work here. She does her best with the clunky dialogue, and pulls off the balance between drama queen and devil. The rest of the cast act like rejects from the casting sessions of Battle Royale, throwing themselves into their roles like complete idiots. At 74 minutes, the best thing about Tomie: Beginning is that it's over quickly. This will make no difference to the average consumer, though, because you don't have to watch it if you don't want to. Serious fans of the Tomie series will probably want to check it out, but everyone else should stay as far away as possible.
To Media Blasters' credit, the DVD has been assembled well. The A/V quality is excellent, featuring a clear image and a rich 5.1 sound transfer. This is some of the best work I've seen from the company, and hopefully that quality will extend to better films they acquire the rights to. The only extra on the disc is a brief featurette with footage from the film's premiere. Consider me shocked that this turd got a theatrical showing at all.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in Tomie: Beginning: Nothing bonds a class like chopping apart a fellow student in the woods at night. Beyond that, I see no reason to waste even an hour on this bland Japanese chiller.
Chopping Tomie up and discarding her parts separately doesn't work, but I bet it will take care of this DVD just fine.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• Premiere Featurette
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