It’s here!! It’s here!! More “Killer Mutant Baby” fun from the Land of the Rising Sun, it’s “Tamami: The Baby’s Curse” direct to your Favorite Catgirl Princess from Japan. I’ve been waiting for about a month for this one to arrive, but finally it showed up in the mail yesterday. Since I had Friday off, I promptly curled up on the couch with Goober and made an evening of watching it.
Our Synopsis for it reads as follows: “Yoko (played by Nako Mizusawa), a pretty 15-year-old orphan girl, discovers that her family didn’t actually purposely abandon her as a baby, and having found her at last, now want her to come live with them in their sprawling mansion. What begins as every orphan’s dream come true turns into a nightmare as she discovers her mother is insane and a disgusting horrifying monster that lives in the attic wants to kill her. That monster is Tamami, the deformed twin sister that Yoko never knew she had. Jealous and enraged at Yoko’s beauty, Tamami will stop at nothing to rid the world of such a blatant reminder of her own hideousness.”
Yep…. this one sounds like Goober and I are gonna like it… but we’ve been teased by such promising descriptions before…. Does “Tamami” have the chills and thrills to make this lil’ Catgirl sleep badly tonight?
I guess we’ll just have to find out! So whatcha waitin’ for, Gentle Visitors? “Read On” !!
Now Neko doesn’t often buy her DVD’s from Japan…. there are lots of reasons, but mostly it’s a cost issue. Normally I wait for a Japanese film to get a release in HK, Malaysia, or Singapore to snatch them up. But…. this year my state income tax return arrived the same day that I first saw “Tamami” was available for sale with the ever so important English subtitles I need…. and by coincidence it was exactly the amount needed… to the very penny!! I’m not a superstitious girl, but then, hey!! Signs are Signs…. and one doesn’t disobey the all powerful “Spirits of Cheesy Cinema” lightly. Naturally, I ordered it up immediately.
This one, directed by Yudai Yamaguchi, is based on the classic 1967 horror manga by Kazuo Umezu who basically is the godfather of horror manga in Japan, influencing most other such efforts from then till today. Director Yamaguchi first made his name as the producer of Ryuhei Kitamura’s Zombie epic “Versus” before directing some bizarre films of his own such as “Battlefield Baseball”. With them both on board, you just know “Tamami” has a shot at being a great lil’ horror film. Not surprisingly…. “Tamami” more than lives up to this…..
Many of Umezu’s stories center around young female protagonists trapped in what can only be described as “Fairy Tales of Terror” with weirdly Gothic elements and particularly graphic violence. In “Tamami”, director Yamaguchi takes this approach and certainly runs with it. Our story starts on a dark and stormy night in 1960 as young orphan Yuko is being delivered to the sinister mansion of her long lost family…. there is rain…. suspicious locals who are unwilling to help Yuko and her friend reach the reputedly haunted mansion of her father….. and enough creepy atmosphere for two movies.
Once there, she waits in a lonely parlor drying herself by a fire while her social worker tries to get the creepy housekeeper to let him speak to her father. Alone, she hears the cries of a baby echoing eerily from a nearby room and is drawn into the dark maze of corridors in search of it. You just know that’s gonna be a mistake…. Soon she’s trapped in a locked room full of toys, and the crying turns to giggling. It’s then that she gets attacked and then chased by a malevolent unseen thing that tears at her clothes. Long crazy shadows claw at her wildly till she flees back through the confusing maze only to run into a stern and unsettling kimono wearing woman before fainting dead away…..
She awakes next morning, sunlight streaming through the windows and her friend, the social worker assures her that it was all a dream… that she had just fainted from anxiety and that all is going to be alright. Still, he doesn’t like the place…. the absence of her father…. or the creepy housekeeper, or the clearly unbalanced condition of Mrs. Nanjo. He tells Yuko that even though he’s leaving, if she ever needs help, all she has to do is call him and he’ll come back for her without delay. Yep…. you know he’s a goner…. it’s just how these stories are. He makes a last attempt to speak to Mrs. Nanjo as she wanders into the garden, but soon loses her in the overgrown mess it’s been allowed to become. It’s the last time we see him alive….
Yuko meanwhile, meets her father for the first time, and he seems to be genuinely happy to have found her. He’s made a place for her in the house… bought her all the nice things he thought a young girl would want or need…. and he tells her the tragic story of how he and her mother lost her during one of the last bombing raids of World War 2. He’s searched for her for these last 15 years, but somehow her mother just can’t let go of the memory of Tamami…. Yuko’s twin sister and her mother’s favorite of the two girls…. whom Yuko is led to presume was killed in that same tragic accident…. But it seems that’s not exactly true…..
Tamami is very much alive….. and still lurking in the maze of crawlspaces, air shafts, and secret passages that riddle the old house and surrounding estate. Born deformed and hideous with a giant claw for a right arm and a wicked streak a mile long, she was abandoned by her father some 10 years ago and he was later told she died…. much to his relief. Unknown to him, she somehow returned from the hospital that he committed her to and was hidden away here by her crazy mother and the housemaid, and has been in the mansion all this time. It’s her old room that’s been fixed up for Yuko, and she’s not happy about the idea of losing her family to her pretty sister. She’s gonna drive Yuko away…. or kill her.
Poor Yuko’s going to need some help… and in good ol’ Gothic storytelling fashion that help comes in the form of a handsome, mysterious boy who braves the feral dogs and sneaks into the estate past the deadly electric fence surrounding it looking for what happened to his brother…. Yuko’s friend the Social Worker from her old orphanage. He’ll handle the majority of the “Scooby Doo” stuff for the rest of the movie… like sneaking around in places no sensible person would go on a supposedly haunted estate.
The bodies start piling up as soon as Mr. Nanjo discovers his wife has been hiding Tamami all along….. and he tries to end things by beating his mutant freak of a daughter senseless, tying her inside a suitcase and chucking it off a cliff….. Sounds like it should work…. so naturally it doesn’t. Tamami escapes again, kills a wild dog in her rage by tearing off it’s head, and comes home to settle things with dear old daddy….. (can you say “Rip his lil’ noggin’ clean off?”)
Then she sets her sights on Yuko…. and the story speeds up with all the usual trappings…. Perilous chases through those secret tunnels…. a midnight visit to the impossibly high roof of the house…. a fight in dad’s research tower with his collection of medieval weapons…. even a visit to the deadly electric fence surrounding the estate…. culminating with a showdown at the bottom of a dry well, and a series of explosions that burn everything to the ground. Tamami proves she is a real “energizer bunny” here…. just when you think she’s taken enough damage to kill an entire squad of the Japanese Defense Force, she bounces back for more. She’s fast…. agile, and deadly and more than a match for anything that get’s thrown at her. It’s only a moment of hesitation that saves Yuko….. and even so, Yuko’s gonna limp her way back to the orphanage, trust me on that one….
I really liked this one…. it takes all the best of the whole “Mutant Baby” thing and fuses it with a nicely atmospheric Gothic style horror story that feels just like a cross between the Brothers Grimm and “It’s Alive” with bits of the old Roger Corman Poe films thrown in for good measure (especially the flaming finale). The Japanese Region 2 DVD is a class act too. It’s excellently produced, with a 16:9 widescreen format, perfect English subtitles, and nearly 50 chapters…. more than I’ve ever seen on any DVD before. My only quibble is perhaps the price….. nearly 44$ US. A wee bit pricey for what is essentially a well made horror tale with a fairly standard yet enjoyable plot. Most people will probably want to wait to see this one once the HK release hits stores…. but trust Neko, then it’ll be worth it. Your Favorite Catgirl Princess gives “Tamami” 4 “Meows” out of a possible 5 for being a very well made, well acted, and entertaining monster movie experience…. and that’s sometime exactly what you want on a cold dark movie night…… Heheheheh!!
As with all such nifty films, there’s a Trailer available, and here it is in all it’s goose-pimply goodness!!