You’re probably thinking one of two things at this point; one, that stories about Tomie are growing pretty old, and two, that I’m that weird “Tomie” guy who reviews nothing but Tomie films. Rest assured. For those of you thinking the first; good job, Tomie yarns are at best stale. For anyone thinking the latter: shut your filthy, slack – toothed maw, no one asked for your inane backwater opinions anyway. For the rest of you I present Tomie: Forbidden Fruit.
The opening scene is a flashback, and a fairly grimy looking one at that. Accuse me of heresy if you must for using a PS2 game as a point of reference, but it reminded me walking around Himuro Mansion in Fatal Frame. Kazuhiko Hashimoto and an apartment manager are heading up to his friend Masao Tajima’s studio after a brief disappearance. They discuss his behavior as of late; the super explaining that he had a girl over a lot in the past few days, a girl that Kazuhiko knows. Upon inspecting the apartment they find Tajima strung up and hung like a side of beef and bloody handprints in his closet, followed by the sound of malevolent, feminine laughter (guess who?).
Cut to twenty five years later. Kazu cannot forget Tomie; He even named his only daughter after her. “Gloomy Tomie” - utterly socially inept and carrion for the stronger bully type personalities - she is often teased and picked on. She’s also into the occult, penance, and dark things - making her even more of a pariah. One day while window shopping in her favorite galleria de esoterica, she happens upon a beautiful cross in the jewelry section, but seeing it’s too expensive, decides she’s a vampire and doesn’t like crosses (man I wish I could talk myself out of the things I wanted that easily). No sooner does she turn around than she’s met by familiar, wildfire eyes. Wildfire eyes attached to hands that hold that same cross she coveted. “You wanted this, didn’t you? Here, let’s go” and the two dart off into the night like bats. As they make introductions, Tomie finds that the mysterious stranger shares her name, and a frolicsome friendship begins… or DOES it?
You just might calculate what happens next from that exposition alone, and no one would fault you if you did. The point remains that the mechanics of the relationships have changed a bit this time around, injecting a much needed boost into what could have been simple, popcorn, bubblegum horror. In fact, to call this a horror film is a lie, and therefore a disservice to its viewers. I could more accurately describe it as a coming of age/family story with a Rod Sterling twist (and everyone learns a lesson too. Wait? What the fuck is this, an after school special!?). I may have furrowed your brow a bit at “relationship mechanics”, so hold on and let me explain. You see, instead of the normal Tomie formula of jealous girlfriend/cheating boyfriend, we get a completely different dynamic dealing with the father/daughter relationship. Tomie can’t work carnal envy against the two of them, so we see Tomie’s technique change; using gloomy Tomie (as she will henceforth be called) to get to Kazu and ultimately use Kazu to kill his daughter (what a bitch). It was interesting to see how and when these people would react, and because the normal computations don’t apply, it gave the proceedings a freshness that Tomie films had been lacking for a while. Putting the importance of character development in front of other things like needless shock scares and loud jump chords is a first for Tomie, and you can certainly tell it’s not their forte, but the plot certainly didn’t dive into the doldrums because of it either. In fact, scenes after Kazu has murdered the monstrous Tomie and Gloomy Tomie moves away to Tokyo to take care of the head are VERY good (that comment just separated the fans from the boys). The sheer dedication of gloomy Tomie to keep her only real friend even after Tomie’s regrowth has become infected and the desperation that takes hold after she realizes she can no longer take care of the monstrous growth is oddly touching.
Speaking of Tomie regrowth, this film wins hands down for grossest Tomie regeneration. She looks like a writhing maggot pupa trying to molt (it’s even worse later after she becomes infected and another grotesquely deformed face forms on the maggot tail).
As far as direction goes Nakahara does a superb job and uses color to good and surprising effect, lacing the movie with vivid oranges, deep violets and hypnotic blues. A scene with the two girls standing on a hill set against a heavenly bright sunset reminded me of and Edward Gorey illustration (for those of you unfamiliar with Edward Gorey, Tim Burton is a logical equivalent). I found also that the score aided the mood very much, utilizing Japanese ritual drums as its source of melody, which, in context, is very unnerving.
Of course, in order to really enjoy this movie you have to put all the weight on the performances, and you know what? They aren’t half bad. Hayato Kunimura as the haunted but loving father Kazuhiko is an excellent anchor for the cast and pulls off his character well. Nozomi Ando plays an understated if not bland Tomie. This is not nearly the problem it seems though, considering it allows her to move aside and let the real story unfold. Besides, at this stage in the game I would have PREFERRED an unmemorable Tomie, she’s had enough screen time and it’s a breath of fresh air to have a Tomie story actually NOT revolve around Tomie. The real star, however, (the REAL Tomie here) is Aoi Miyazaki as gloomy Tomie. She did a knock out job and for once I can’t even defend my decision. I can’t really say WHY I like her. I just felt so sorry for her and maybe a part of myself empathizes with her; believe it or not I used to be a dork and an out cast too (HEY! SHUT UP back there! Don’t think I don’t hear you). Admittedly though, my close second favorite performances almost became my favorite. Yuka Fujimoto, Ayaka Ninomiya, and Chiaki Ota as Kyoko, Megumi, and Tomoko were SO great as the bitchy teenage punks who bully gloomy Tomie. That’s not to say they’re GOOD, they’re bad, but they’re so good at it. I hated them. I wanted them dead. I eventually got half my wish granted when they were beaten severely by Kazu after they break into his house sometime toward the ladder half of the film. Man, I was cheern’ my lungs out during that scene. To make things even sweeter, they’re herd referencing Ringu within the first five lines of the film. It’s as though Tomie has come full circle in acknowledging what she is in film form: pop culture tripe.
Just in case you were wondering if “Forbidden Fruit” would break the chain of bad endings you would be harshly mistaken. In fact, so harshly that you would fall flat on your face if wrong opinions were a BMX wipeout. “Forbidden Fruit” seems to solve the Tomie problem for good, only to have it backfire. You see, Kazu works in an ice factory – the solution being, FREEZE HER. That’s good… didn’t see that one coming, that’s a rather good solution too… if it worked. In true Tomie style she seduces Kazu into breaking her out. NO! NO, NO, NO. She was to DIE! I would have been completely satisfied to see Tomie spend eternity in an icy grave, but alas, no… not here… not in this abysmal waste land of plot holes and anti – climaxes. To make it worse, the true ending finds us in gloomy Tomie’s room, reading aloud a short story, ending with the line “She will make a good friend of her yet” and in the padded box where her cross once slept is now the ear of Tomie, listening to the uplifting message. Yak. I think I’m gonna lurch. Oh, well, you can’t win em’ all.
Adness America once again screws us on anything good, all the standards plus a very unorganized featurette, interesting but nothing to drool over (like the first).
Forbidden Fruit is NOT (repeat NOT) a horror film. It tries to pull Tomie out of the boring doldrums and fill the void with a more character rich story. Even though it doesn’t exactly pull this off with flying colors, it gives it at least enough life to keep you interested for the duration of the movie. And don’t let the subtitle “The Final Chapter” fool you: just this year Ataru Oikawa (writer/director of the original “Tomie”) both wrote and directed “Tomie: Beginning” (with storylines from the original that were cut and I bitched about missing the first time around) and “Tomie: Revenge”. Ughh, do we really HAVE to? I guess I’ll save those reviews for later… I’m a little burned out on Tomie as of late. I need a vacation from vengeful demon girls.