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Friday, October 25, 2002

Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

"Uzumaki" is the Japanese word for "spiral," and this horror movie employs the image in virtually every permutation you can imagine. People in the working-class town of Kurozu-Cho fall prey to an obsession with the spiral shape that leads to suicide, madness and transformation.

For a while, it appears that "Uzumaki" might turn into the kind of high-school horror movie that infested American movie screens for too long. A female student, Kirie (Eriko Hatsune) is pestered by a grinning nerd of a classmate who wants to be her friend. Her longtime pal Shuichi (Fhi Fan) wants Kirie to elope with him and get out of town before it's too late.

The director, who calls himself Higuchinsky and made his name on music videos, gives this 90-minute film a turgid pace. Even his more subtle special effects, like the dirt swirling in a spiral shape behind the characters as they walk, all but shout for attention. That goes for some of the more histrionic performances as well.

Yet when "Uzumaki" does gets down to business, its nightmare images of literal death spirals, creepy sound effects of squishy liquids and cheesy special effects engineer a creeping dread that swirls down your gullet. It doesn't make any kind of sense, but this kind of horror isn't supposed to. It's just supposed to scare you. "Uzumaki" delivers, but in its own sweet time.

Not rated; contains explicit horror images. Harris Theater.

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