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Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater Volume 1: House of Bugs / Diet (2005)


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Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater Vol 1:
House of Bugs / Diet

[Umezu Kazuo Kyoufu Gekijou: Mushitachi no Ie / Zesshoku]

Genre: Powerful Psychological Horror

review in one breath

This collection contains two horror stories based on manga by Umezu Kazuo. These are both very effective tales of psychological horror in which audiences will find themselves led along truly bewildering paths. This is the first of three volumes and is well worth watching. Director Kurosawa Kiyoshi directs the first tale here.


intro

This is the first of three volumes of the recently released Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater. Each volume contains two one-hour horror vignettes based on Umezu's horror manga. The production of this series celebrates the 50th anniversary of Umezu's debut as manga artist.

Over those fifty years, Umezu (or as he prefers, Umezz) has been quite a prolific author covering a wide swath of characters and stories. Rather than long episodic manga wherein a single character is developed and followerd over many months and years, Umezu specializes in short stories which, in a single tale, delivers the whole of the intended horror/spookiness.

The following six tales comprise the entire collection:

House of Bugs (vol 1)
The Diet (vol 1)
Snake Girl (vol 2)
The Wish (vol 2)
The Present (vol 3)
Death Make (vol 3)

Umezu defines horror as extreme pyscho drama and indeed the two tales here fall squarely into the category of (very effective) psychological horror. Rather than merely confront the audience with something horrendous and fearful (such as Ito Junji's Marronnier), Umezu's brand of psychological horror presents a beautiful and cherishable scenario. Audience members are then required to endure the (possible) gradually crumbling of this beautiful entity. In the two tales presented here, both scenarios involved very normal every-day situations which further allow the audience to associate with and emotionally invest themselves in.

I must admit, the skill with which he pulls this off is indeed very impressive. I generally take a few notes while watching these in order to catch important names or dates, but for these tales my notes consist of a series of reminders of how good they were. For example, I had written down:

  • WOW
  • powerful
  • audience manipulation
  • ride the psychological edge

In other words, these are good stories. And they DO skillfully manipulate the audience until they become as unsure of what they are seeing as the characters themselves.

The Western release date of these tales is in proximity to Tomie: Beginning and Tomie: Revenge, also two tales based on another manga series by author Ito Junji. Unlike the two Tomie films, which on most accounts can be deemed failures due to their inability to convey the original horrific vision of the manga series, Umezu's one-hour short stories seem to powerfully deliver the frightening nuances intended in the original tales. The stories and cast are depicted minimalistically and are clearly not high budget fare. But in this case, I believe, this provides far fewer obstacles between the master storyteller and his audience. In watching these there is NO doubt as to what in these manga stories terrified and appealed to readers.

story

The following are brief descriptions of the two tales contain in volume 1:

Bug House [mushitachi no ie ]

A husband and wife slowly grow apart as each increasingly misunderstands the other. Their means of coping, however, soon blossoms in to a strange metamorphosis which takes on a life of its own.

This tale is directed by none other than Kurosawa Kiyoshi, director of classic j-horror films such as Cure (1997), Charisma (2000), Kairo (2001), and Kourei (2001).


Diet [zesshoku]

A young and attractive high school girl is horrified when she turns obese overnight. The weight suddenly comes and goes at unexpected times, as the truly bizarre mystery gradually comes to light.

This tale is directed by Ito Takashi and marks his debut as lead director.


verdict

As far as short tales of psycho-horror, these come across as very convincing and effective. I will certainly be checking out the other two volumes when they are released.

If you see this, be sure to check out the extras included on the DVD, particularly the interview with Umezu himself. He seems to be quite a character, and his outgoing personality is clearly the energy which drives the success of this series.

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD with English subtitles available at all mainstream venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
First productions based on the works of manga artist Umezu Kazuo. Creepy depicted, implied and/or possible violence. They make their way to the Love Hotel and then... Very effective and powerful psychological horror. Well worth the watch.

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