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Film Review: Tomie: Another Face (1999)

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SYNOPSIS:

A three-film anthology focusing on female apparition who appears to different people in different circumstances, but always with horrific results.

REVIEW:

Directed by Ataru Oikawa, Tomie: Another Face is based on the manga by Junji Ito and features three separate stories with one common thread — the protagonists in all three tales are haunted by Tomie, a beautiful young woman who cannot die and will not let others live happily.

The three segments were originally filmed as a miniseries and this installment is actually one of nine films in the Tomie franchise, the most recent being Tomie Unlimited, released in 2011. As I’ve not seen any of the other chapters in this long-lived horror franchise, I can’t comment on how Tomie: Another Face fits into the mythology or the quality of the franchise as a whole, but the fact that the series has lasted for over a decade is (likely) a good sign.

In this installment, the deadly but enticing Tomie is portrayed by Runa Nagai, also known for 2006’s Vanished. Each segment in the film places Tomie in new situations, with new victims to bewilder and harm — in each, her sweet and innocent demeanour draws in new (male) victims with ease, lulling them into a false sense of security and provoking their lust until her mask drops and she reveals a level of ruthlessness that they would never have imagined. Men’s rights activists on Reddit could have easily crowd-written this film, but I digress. Each film also features the appearance of a mysterious and menacing man with an eye patch, whose motivations are left undiscovered until the final chapter.

The first story is the typical high-school drama: girl meets boy, girl loses boy to another girl, other girl’s body is found in a pile of trash, girl regains boy, other girl comes back from the dead. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme. The story is told from the viewpoint of Miki, a classmate of the deceased girl and the ex-girlfriend of Takashi, Tomie’s grieving boyfriend.

After Miki takes the opportunity to comfort Takashi and makes a date with him, Tomie inexplicably returns from the dead, accompanied by childlike singing and deceptively cheerful music. Takashi’s ambivalence toward her return is more than just confusion about the circumstances — as the story unfolds, we learn that there was more to their last meeting than Takashi initially let on.

The second story leaves the high school setting and follows the story of a photographer who has been haunted since his youth by the memory of a beautiful girl that he used to see each day in a park in his hometown. (These flashback scenes feature a lovely, warm, inviting palette – I don’t blame him for being so obsessed with them.) Forever searching for a woman who attracts him like this mystery girl, he has devoted his life to photographing beautiful women.

While visiting his hometown, he meets a young woman in a bar who is the spitting image of his youthful crush. Assuming that she is the daughter of the mystery girl, he takes her out for a day of modelling but the results are anything but picture-perfect.

In the third story, a business man named Mr. Yasuda proposes to his new girlfriend at the park, only to be attacked by a mysterious man with an eye patch. Though he and his girlfriend escape unscathed, she is furious with him for not attacking and killing the man, and demands that he do so in order to prove his love for her. The face-off between Yasuda and the eye-patch man doesn’t go well, when the boyfriend brings a knife to a taser fight. When Yasuda wakes up in an abandoned warehouse, he makes a shocking discovery that, at the very least, puts his matrimonial future in jeopardy.

Throughout the three stories, the mystery of Tomie is slowly revealed. Each tale offers a new piece of the puzzle at the expense of a new set of victims. The acting is decent – it’s night and day each time Tomie drops her mask and reveals her true cruelty, becoming an entirely different person in voice and body language. While the stories don’t offer much in the way of real scares, the unravelling mystery makes them interesting enough to kill an afternoon with.

Score: 5.5 out of 10 undead girlfriends.

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