Masters of Horror: Imprint
masters of horror | imprint | takashi miike | daisuke tengan | billy drago | shiho harumi | michie | supernatural | history | mick garris | canada | japan | united states | magy | shin'ichi tokuhara | takao handa | hiroshi kuze | miyuki konno | yutaka matsuzaki
Film: Masters of Horror: Imprint
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan
Starring: Billy Drago, Shihô Harumi and Michié
Now this was an episode of the television show Masters of Horror that was created by Mick Garris. I remember hearing about it, but never got around to watching it. The concept always intrigued me as growing up I was a big fan of Tales from the Crypt. I remember listening to the episode of 22 Shots of Moodz and Horror podcast where they recapped the first season so I made sure to add all of the movies to my list to check out. This will be the first one to review. The synopsis is in the 1800s, an American returns to Japan to find the prostitute he fell in love with, but instead learns of the psychical and existential horror that befell her after he left.
We get a small boat that is full. Among them is Christopher (Billy Drago). They find a woman in the water, face down and it really doesn’t seem to shock them. They get to a small village and all of the men look for prostitutes to spend the night with. Christopher is looking for a certain one. He is approached by a dwarf, who I’m assuming is the Pimp in the credits, Shinichi Tanaka. He pretty much tells him to find someone before it is too late. We see a woman who no one is selecting, Yûki Kudô. There’s something about her that Christopher is intrigued by and he selects her.
She is deformed, but the two of them hit it off. This woman knows who Christopher is looking for and tells him stories. His love is Komomo (Michié), but this woman informs him that since he didn’t return, she killed herself. This breaks him up and he wants to sleep. He then tells her to tell him a bed time story about herself. This is where she tells him what brought her here and what happened to Komomo, but is she telling him the truth. Things aren’t also as they seem.
Now this runs 63 minutes, so I had to go brief on the recap here a bit. Being that this is directed by Takashi Miike, he makes use of all that time. If you’ve never seen a movie by him, strap yourself in, because it is a wild ride to say the least as there’s a lot in this for sure.
The first thing that I really like about this film is that we really have two unreliable narrators. The woman is a whore and it is stated that they never tell the truth and not to believe them. The first story she tells to Christopher is what he wants to hear, but as he presses her, she tells the truth. Since she’s unreliable though, can we believe that? Christopher though isn’t the most reliable in what he tells to people though either.
Going from that, there’s a surreal feel to the film. Both of these characters have dark pasts, but they don’t want to share it at first. I was really intrigued by that. This film though brings in so many dark parts of society today, which is interesting for the time period it is set in the late 1800s. There’s abortion and incest to bring up a couple. Along with the surreal feel though, we get a bit of the supernatural here and being punished for things that they’re doing as well. I kind of feel bad for the woman to an extent, she’s cursed from birth. Due to this, she decides to do bad things, which partially is hard to blame her, but then there’s also the thought of doing better despite your circumstances. It is really an interesting look at both of their lives.
Since this only runs 63 minutes, I have to say that Miike doesn’t waste any time. We really get into what the premise will be within the first 10 minutes and from there we get flashbacks showing up what happened. I like that we get multiple versions of these events. There was a couple times where I was annoyed though and not really liking where it was going. Then when we see what the truth of the matter was, it brought me back in. The ending was interesting and I really like what the premise of all of this was for sure.
The acting I did have some issues with. I feel bad saying this, but I didn’t like Drago’s performance. There were times that he overacted and he never really had me buying into him. That’s tough when this for the most part is two people in a room together with others there in support. On the flipside though, I really dug Kudô and what she brought to this. Her characters you feel sorry for and are horrified by in the end. Michié and the rest of the cast were solid in support to develop the truth of our leads.
That brings me to the effects, which with Miike, I was semi-prepared for what we got. I’m glad that this originally was made for HBO, because he brought the realism of his practical effects. There’s a torture scene that literally had me calling out due to the realism and where the person was being hurt. If you can get that reaction out of me, you’re doing it right. I do have to say, there’s a bit of a creature effect that I didn’t care for. I like the implications of it, but what we got didn’t work for me. There’s a legend of a person who had something similar, I won’t say his name to avoid a spoiler, but I think something like that would work better for me. The cinematography was great though and I like that we see our characters, while flashback events are happening in the background and the same for some ghostly images as well. Being that the filmmaker is from Japan that makes sense to utilize this.
Now with that said, I’ve heard people down on this episode and I might benefit from seeing it as my first episode, but I like it. I’m pretty limited in my Miike movies that I’ve seen. The ones I have I really liked. This one falls into that. It has a complex story despite its short running time and I like the social commentary that he’s brought in. The time period makes it interesting as well. The acting I’m not as high on from the lead, but I thought that Kudô was good along with the rest of the cast. The effects really had me cringing and aside from one creature effect, I was on board there. The soundtrack works for what was needed in setting the mood, but didn’t really stand out. Surprisingly this is in English, which I know bothers some. I kind of take it like they do on a show like Vikings that they’re actually speaking Japanese, but since this is aimed at American audiences, it is all in English for a wider audience. Regardless, I think is good overall though and I’m excited to check out the rest of the series now. I can’t recommend this fans outside of the genre though with how brutal it gets for a stretch.
My Rating: 8 out of 10