Director: Takeshi Miike

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Imprint Takashi Miike's period horror film Imprint (2006) was based on a classic horror story by Ms. Shimako Iwai.

The visualization of the written tale into cinema uses inauthentic costuming & exquisit art design, having few touchstones with reality.

This does not so much induce a mood of period falsity as it evokes otherworldliness, influenced in look more by manga & anime than by an historical wardrobe.

Lowly prostitutes -- vastly below courtesans -- live pathetic lives in a misery-laden 19th Century bordello. American character-actor Bill Drago plays Christopher, a Victorian journalist who is practically a Romantic in contrast to this sadistic world.

He arrives in Japan seeking Komomo (Michie Ito), describing her as "an unfortunate woman who was the love of my life." He had promised to return for her, but he was too late, as she'd been sold to a distant, demonic whorehouse.

ImprintThe bordello is on the border of reality, on an island where demons are the customers of doomed harlots.

Komoko's torture scene with a sadistic whore, while a dwarf named Touter (stage magician Mame Yamada, seen also in 9 Souols, 2003) bobs his head bird-like & weird harlots watch or assist.

This is truly a scene off of a hell-screen, with the fingernail & gums torture among the creepiest things ever filmed.

The dwarf with his nose rotted off from the clap provides Christopher with a whore (Youki Kudoh). She seems very nice but inexpensive because of her deformed mouth.

From her, he learns Komomo hanged herself, having given up hope of Christopher ever finding her. He goes into a screaming depression. When he calms down, he insists on being told the full truth of Komomo's terrible fate, which as Komomo tells it has a way of shifting from bad to worse.

Every time the deformed harlot tells Christopher more about Komoko's life, lurid horror is heaped on lurid horror. Plus the flashback to her own life as an abortionist's daughter was likewise appalling to the highest degree. These are horrors born of human depravities rather than ghosts & devils.

ImprintThe shifting "truth" of the story leads to a revelation about the parisitic twin "Little Sis," which has got to be one of the more imaginatively sickening & novel moments ever shown on film.

In the dvd's extras we see Miike alleging, as he often does, that he is not a horror film director. He may not be only a horror film director, but having directed a couple gdreat ones, he shouldn't express such denial.

Miike also has considerable praise for Billy Drago. "Billy's distinct features -- that individuality -- is a rare commodity."

And that's absolutely right! I've loved many lousy films just because Drago was in them, because of his unique physical presence on the screen, though his acting has rarely lived up to the image he projects. Miike has gotten a phenomenal performance out of him.

Although Imprint has an American star, shot in English, & is an episode of the American anthology series Masters of Horror, it was filmed at Toei Studios in Japan, & has very much the tone of a first-rate Japanese kaiden or period ghost story.

The anthology series itself, under the helm of the minimally talented Mike Garis, is in general a staggering disappointment with very few high spots. But Imprint is unquestionably one of those rare high points, the best film (& as it happens the last) ever to come out of the series.

So wouldn't you know it, the series at long last gets one right & Showtime cable television decides it's too horrifying to air. So it became the only direct-to-video episode, arguing that Garis couldn't've produced a good series even if he knew how because if he kept getting talent like Miike to do something extraordinary, cable wouldn't allow it on.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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