Masters Of Horror: Imprint
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If the United States is the pioneer of the modern horror movie than Japan is the explorer. Just when you think you've seen everything horror has to offer, Japanese horror writers and directors take you in strange, unknown directions. Just one you think you've seen everything, they take it to another level going for more shocks, more blood, more gore, and more horror. More is not always better as a good story is worth more than just gory special effects and makeup. While those things may initially scare us, true horror lies within the unsettling moments of the story and the acting. I certain phrase, a turn of events, or even a specific look by an actor can turn a mediocre movie into a truly chilling watch.
Masters Of Horror: Imprint is a story from the horror anthology directed by Takashi Miike (Audition, One Missed Call). Set in the Victorian era, an American journalist named Christopher (Billy Drago, Demon Hunter, The Lords Of Salem) is traveling through Japan looking for his lost love, a prostitute named Komomo. He arrives at an island inhabited only by prostitutes and spends the night with a quite prostitute with a facial deformity. She tells Christopher that Komomo killed herself because he did not come to rescue her in time. Distraught, Christopher seeks solace in sake and asks the girl to tell him a story. She tells him of her life, explaining that her mother was a midwife and was forced to sell her into slavery after her drunken father killed himself. She explained that as a young child, she learned that bad people go to hell and good people go to heaven. Eventually, she ended up on the island with Komomo. Komomo was the most popular girl on the island, causing a lot of jealousy among the older prostitutes. When the Madame's ring is stolen Komomo was brutally tortured by the other girls until she confessed. Overcome with shame and agony, Komomo hanged herself. Disbelieving the story, Christopher asks her to tell the truth. The girl retells the story, which is far more darker than the first. She explains that her mother performed abortions and that the monk who taught her of heaven and hell had molested her. She also reveals that her father had raped her and she beat him to death. Despite Komomo's kindness, the girl planted the stolen ring on her. After her torture, the girl killed Komomo, justifying her actions as a way to save her from hell for being associated with bad people. Unconvinced, Christopher demands for the entire truth. The girl also reveals that her parents were brother and sister, making her the product on incest. She was actually born with a parasitic twin; a hand with a face growing out of her head. It was this “sister” that commanded her to kill her father and steal the Madame's ring. The hand begins to speak in Komomo's voice, bringing Christopher to the brink of madness. What does this all mean and what will happen?
"I just remembered I have an early meeting. You're a super girl. Gotta go!"
This may be the weirdest of all the Masters Of Horror movies. Beyond some of the cultural nuances, the story itself takes so many different twists and turns that you're never really sure what you're watching. I think part of this problem is attributed to the Masters Of Horror format, forcing the story to fit into an hour-long television episode. As a full-length, Imprint would have had the appropriate amount of time to foreshadow and draw the big surprises out. Everything is rushed in an hour and the little intricacies that would have made for a complete watch were left out. The multiple-stories within a story reminded me of the Jet Li movie “Hero”. It's an interesting plot device, but I felt the execution was a bit lacking. Again, this can be attributed to the short run-time of the movie. Too much happens too quickly while only the last 15 minutes provide anything truly interesting. As I've stated before, I am not a fan of torture in movies and Imprint goes way overboard. I won't get into specifics, but if you're squeamish, you should just skip over this part altogether. It's no surprise that the man behind “Audition” directed Imprint. This episode never actually made it to television as Showtime felt it was too violent and gruesome, even for cable. It is hard to watch even for those who think they are desensitized.
The 800-pound elephant in the room is the talking hand coming out of a woman's head. It is certainly creepy, but it's just a little too weird. It's almost on par with the necrophila scene from Masters Of Horror: Haeckel's Tale. Almost. I think they would have been better off portraying it as an undeveloped Siamese twin. I know they were going for a “voices in her head” theme, but really, it's just a hand with a face growing out of a woman's head. It reminded me too much of the martial arts spoof “Kung Pow!: Enter The Fist” where the main character's tongue had a face on it. The sets look very good and Miike creates some beautiful and creative scenes. The subtext of what is really hell is always an interesting topic. It's brought up a few times throughout the movie, but not enough to truly convey any feelings or ideas. If they wanted to discuss one's personal Hell, they should have devoted more time to that than gratuitous torture. The ending was interesting and could actually be left up to one's interpretation. While some can see it simply for what it is, I believe that Christopher may have been in his own personal Hell the entire time. I could be wrong, but the movie does a good job of leaving things open for interpretation. The horror in the movie is a mixture of harsh violence, brutal abuse, and personal anguish.
Masters Of Horror: Imprint is certainly the most unique horror story in the series. It doesn't contain the humor seen in a majority of the episodes and goes off in a much darker direction. The story itself is interesting, though more time was needing to properly explain things. Because of the time constraints, pacing is also an issue as things feel rushed. More time would have allowed for foreshadowing and slower reveals. The movie contains a lot of violence, blood, and gore with a torture scene that is difficult to sit through. The inclusion of the hand sister is just a little too weird and goofy for me. I think something a little more subtle would have worked better. Miike still manages to make it creepy and unsettling, so it could have been far more ridiculous. Imprint is an interesting, if unpleasant watch. Some may like it and others may hate it. I'm somewhere in the middle as I like the themes and ideas, but could have done without the torture or the hand sister. Give Imprint a shot if you're feeling adventurous, but be prepared.