Showcasing eight films, the most recent one being Tomie Vs. Tomie, and a ninth on the way, the Tomie series is still going strong. Based on Junji Ito’s manga of the same name, this horror series has amassed a large following in Japan and abroad. The series centers around a girl, Tomie, who just won’t die. Something about her drives the men (and sometimes women) around her to go mad and kill her, usually by dismemberment. No matter how many times this happens, she regenerates much to the shock of everyone around her. It’s odd that a film with such a strange premise has spawned so many sequels, so what is it that makes this series so popular? Maybe it’s that when looked at as not just another horror film, this series can be seen as a “psychological” horror film that is more challenging than trifling.
The character of Tomie is one who relishes the disheveling of psyches for her own entertainment. Being able to make almost any man swoon dangerously over her, she often inspires people, mostly men, to do hideous things to prove their love for her. This often entails murder, strangely enough her own. Her regeneration leads to the mental degradation of all involved and their own death or madness is ensured. Besides being able to get under her victims skin metaphorically she also shows the ability to do so literally. In Tomie: Replay she exhibits the ability to replicate herself as a parasitic tumor that brings death, madness, and the eventual assimilation into a new Tomie upon her victim. Over the course of the series it becomes clear that there are in fact many Tomie’s, and they sometimes clash. A perfect example of this is Tomie Vs. Tomie.
Though hardly ever downright scary the technical aspects of this series is often adept at unhinging it’s audience with its chilling soundtrack and imagery. The soundtrack, rivaling John Carpenter’s Halloween, helps to build an unsettling atmosphere that gets under your skin. The cinematography and grotesque imagery is also rather disquieting, talking disembodied heads and growths with human faces are not a rarity in this series. A great thing about these films is that they definitely stray from normal conventions. By veering away from such horror movie clichés such as excessive gore, and instead relying on subtlety and atmosphere, this series is definitely creepier and more cerebral than some other horror series out there.
One problem with many horror films is that they seem like chopped up pieces of easily digestible junk food fed to viewers under the belief that they are too inept to chew things over on their own. For instance many horror films, no matter how ridiculous the plot, feel the need to spell it out for viewers instead of letting them work through it. The Tomie series however, weaves it’s tales in a more challenging manner. None of the many questions this series poses are ever easily answered. Why does Tomie regenerate? Why is it that everyone around her desires her to the extent that they are driven to unspeakable acts of violence? Does she find her existence a blessing or a curse? These answers are given eventually, but the voyage getting there is a fun and challenging ride.