Good storyline, misleading title, bad direction, no pace, dull lead characters.
I'd been looking forward to this one, but unfortunately I was led astray by my expectations. You'll be disappointed if you're hoping for the equivalent of "Alien vs. Predator
" or "King Kong vs. Godzilla". The title's not actually a lie, but it's misleading. Yes, there are multiple Tomies trying to kill each other. However that's not the movie's focus. The Tomie vs. Tomie action is confined to the middle act and then gets forgotten for the rest of the movie.
Instead the main character is Kazuki Umehara. His girlfriend was murdered six months ago, but he's trying to put that behind him and get his life back together. He finds a job. However by the most extraordinary stroke of luck, the people at his new workplace are sheltering their own Tomies! Well, it's the Junji Ito universe. Surrealism and dream logic are in his blood. Perhaps more surprising then is that Umehara is immune to Tomie's ability to cloud men's minds and indeed seems hostile towards her.
As usual with Tomie movies, it draws on Ito's original manga, in this case "The Gathering." What's more, it has some cool ideas. There's a creepy reason why multiple Tomies are stalking each other. Note the opening shot of a syringe full of blood as we hear a baby crying. Note also the vignette of two little girl Tomies confronting each other, just after one of them's decided for no reason to crush a bird with a rock. Charming. Anyway, this is more startling than it looks because we've never seen Tomie as a child before. She's always been a beautiful woman. Her superpowers (hopefully) wouldn't work otherwise. Try to imagine a child who sexually mesmerises all men and you'll open up vistas of taste that I pray this franchise never visits. Anyway, so far Tomie has always jumped straight to womanhood. Cut her head off and it'll sprout tentacles and crawl away, then fast-grow another adult form. Admittedly this might involve an intermediate larval stage in which she's briefly child-sized, but that's got nothing to do with being a child and growing up like everyone else.
There's meat on this storyline. There's easily as much to get your teeth into as there was in Tomie films I liked. However we now come to the difference between a script and a movie.
The actors are boring. Kazuki Umehara in particular is a null. You'll be wondering why the film keeps wasting time on him, until eventually Act Three gets going and you'll realise we were meant to be giving an unmentionable about this waste of space. The Tomies are better than him, if only because of their livelier story roles, but my favourite was the one who dies first. She was prettier and scarier.
The director isn't helping though. He can't frame a shot and he can't even bring alive a confrontation with Tomie. Those scenes aren't sexy, dramatic, frightening or anything else. He keeps the camera back and you don't feel involved. On top of that, he lets the pace drag even by the slow-burning standards of a Tomie movie. There are scenes where I honestly can't tell whether: (a) my movie player was malfunctioning, (b) the director was slowing down the film speed for the sake of a dreamlike atmosphere, or (c) the actors were talking slowly and not picking up their cues.
Don't watch the Malaysian DVD, by the way. The subtitles were obviously done with a translation web page, resulting in, for instance, an attempt to translate the kanji in people's names as if they were words in the sentence. Fortunately though there's now another version you can watch, released by Japan Flix.
In fairness, there are things to like here. The film does manage to be slightly dreamlike and otherworldly, achieving both atmosphere and a plot that makes sense. (The latter is not to be taken for granted in this franchise, especially if you're watching one of Ataru Oikawa's movies.) The factory of mannequins is both spooky and thematically appropriate, since the mass-production of naked female bodies has obvious parallels with Tomie's life cycle. There's also a disgusting, stupid and very, very Tomie bit at the end, which is excellent. (The stupidity isn't on the part of the scriptwriter, but instead from Umehara. You didn't want to do that, mate.) If I watch this again, I'll know to ignore the title and thus will be able to focus my attention more appropriately and enjoy the film more.
Right now, though, I think it's a failure. It didn't have to be, but the director did a bad job.