Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
Year: 2006 "You should see the other guy!"
Youki Kudoh
Director: Takashi Miike
Producer: Mick Garris, Andrew Dean
Writer: Daisuke Tengan, Shimako Iwai
Cast: Billy Drago, Youki Kudoh, Michie Ito, Toshi Negishi, Shimako Iwai
The Skinny: Takashi Miike's infamously yanked, and therefore highly-anticipated episode for Showtime's Masters of Horror series finally sees the light of day on DVD. Too bad it's terrible.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Around here at the meta-office, we have a stock phrase we like to pull out every now and then when things take a sudden, unusually dramatic turn for the worse. That phrase? "IT ALL GOES TO HELL!" It's not a criticism necessarily, since we often use it to describe a character's dramatic reversal of fortune within the context of a film's plot. In many cases, that sort of thing can be glorious to watch, especially when we see the character rise above it all and take back what he's lost. But for this review, I'm using the phrase to describe how something can go oh-so very, very wrong. As such, "IT ALL GOES TO HELL!" isn't so much a reference to what actually happens in Takashi Miike's Imprint, although that, too, would make a fitting description of its content. Some hellish things do occur during its sixty-three minute running time. No, in the case of this particular film, "IT ALL GOES TO HELL!" more or less encapsulates the experience of the audience. Imprint starts out promising, but soon afterwards, it's a downward spiral.
     But in what way should Imprint be thought of as "promising"? Consider its short history: the episode in question was previously slated to appear on Showtime sometime in January of 2006, but the cable channel deemed it too controversial for airplay and ended up pulling the film from its lineup. Of course, both diehard and casual Miike fans couldn't help but react, whether it be through bitter outrage or downright puzzlement. Showtime knew what Miike was capable of doing so why give him carte blanche at all if you're looking for a horror flick that's "safe" for primetime consumption? That seemed to be the primary criticism of Showtime's decision, and as a result of the film's so called "banning," a certain buzz began to build around Imprint. Now, it's finally made its way onto the home video market. Miike fanatics have been clamoring to see what all the hubbub is about, and who can blame them? If the man behind such shocking, yet satisfying cult classics as Audition and Ichi the Killer could craft a film so disturbing that a premium cable channel wouldn't even show it, then it's got to be a horror classic in the making, right?
     Not quite. But before delving into my critique, some measure of summary is in order. Based on the novel by Shimako Iwai, Miike's twisted tale is set in the mid-1800s and centers on Christopher (Billy Drago), an American journalist who has returned to Japan to find Komomo (Michie Ito), the woman he left behind and desperately longs to be reunited with. During his search, he enters a twisted version of 19th century Japan that looks like Memoirs of a Geisha hopped up on acid - full of garish freaks, prostitutes, and things that go bump in the night. In this strange netherworld, he meets a mysterious, disfigured prostitute (Yuki Koudoh) who claims to have known his beloved Komomo. Desperate to know more, he begs her to tell him what happened to his lost love. But as they say, be careful what you wish for.
     What ensues next is basically a poor man's version of Rashomon in which the woman tells a story not only about Komomo but about her own dark past. It is a tale which is soon revealed to evade and disguise a larger truth, which may or may not be true at all or perhaps may exist solely in the head of one of our protagonists. Confused yet?
     In such a brief synopsis form, Imprint doesn't seem quite so shocking, but I made a point of leaving a few gory details out - and it's those omissions that will probably be of interest to Miike's ardent admirers. Throughout the film, there are typical shock value moments, both implied and depicted: grueling torture, on-screen abortions, the disposal of bloody fetuses, patricide, pedophilia, and incest of at least two kinds. This laundry list of dysfunction and gore isn't surprising considering Miike's filmography, so don't think that I'm taking a moralistic position on the film. It's more of a question of what all these things actually add up to, and in the case of Imprint, the answer is "not much." With the help of good acting and a strong story, every single one of those elements could have been utilized to create a rather satisfying film, a quality that Miike's similarly disturbing Audition and Ichi the Killer were able to achive. But Imprint is only "horrific" in the sense of being downright repugnant. How else would you describe the scene of an innocent, brutally tortured woman who urinates on herself after being hung upside down?
     Keeping that disgusting image in mind, I'm hard-pressed to figure out just who this movie is meant for. Who is the ideal audience? Are you the kind of person who enjoys watching simulated brutality against women? Well, if this new breed of torture porn is something you take great satisfaction in watching, there's an excruciatingly brutal sequence early on meant just for you.
     Do you like bad acting? Guess what? Billy Drago provides plenty of that, making one wonder if Miike even bothered to give him any sort direction during the filmmaking process. Sure, Drago's unconventional looks make him seem right at home in a horror movie, but his off-kilter line readings tend to elicit fits of giggles rather than a single iota of compassion for his character's plight. Without any true emotional core to the movie, it's impossible to take the story seriously, and thus it comes across as merely the mechanical enactments of various disgusting "horrors" rather than a full-fledged, truly involving horror tale.
     And what do we make of a film set in Japan where everyone speaks English? For all you Memoirs of a Geisha fans, Imprint provides plenty of "English-only" Japanese folks to populate its cast. Unless Showtime or the producers dictated it, there's really no compelling reason for this movie to be in English. Combine Drago's weak acting with this unnerving, anachronistic, and oddly ubiquitous fluency in English on the part of the Japanese characters, and whatever "reality" the film could have even hoped to possess - and I mean "reality" in the sense of buying fully into the world of the film - is totally lost.
     Story-wise, Imprint makes little sense, though it does seem to be vaguely about guilt, just desserts, and the notion of a personal hell. And it's completely fine with me that there's no definitive explanation for what really went on in the film. The real problem is that it just doesn't add up to anything substantial. In that respect, Imprint is reminiscent of an earlier Miike film entitled One Missed Call, which was so derivative of other recent Asian horror films that folks were struggling to figure out if these similarities were somehow Miike's intentional bid to send up the genre. Imprint will likely cause those same people to ponder exactly what Miike had in mind here. Social commentary? Entertainment? Parody? It's easy to see how Miike apologists will be straining to read Imprint as a jab at Memoirs of a Geisha, The Last Samurai, and/or Rashomon. But if anything, those films seem like minor reference points, not something that should be taken as central to either the film itself or one's appreciation of it.
     Don't get me wrong, Imprint is disturbing, but it's by no means as shocking as some of Miike's other, far nastier endeavors. Sure, Miike resorts to all the shock tactics we expect from him, but he does so without fostering any sort of real investment in the story or its characters. Thus, the final product comes across as little more than a trashy, hollow, and utterly pointless self-parody, rather than giving the fans what they wanted: Takashi Miike at his best. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Anchor Bay Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Audio Commentary, "I Am the Film Director of Love: An Interview with Takashi Miike" featurette, "Imprinting: The Making of Imprint" featurette, "Imperfect Beauty: The Make-up and Special Effects of Imprint" featurette, Takashi Miike Bio, Still Gallery, Trailers, DVD-ROM: Original Screenplay and Screen Saver
image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen