MASTERS OF HORROR Takashi Miike IMPRINT Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment Original Air Date: 25 February 2006 (Season 1, Episode 13) Film Length: 63 minutes Genre: Horror/Thriller Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 5.1 Surround English 2.0 Surround Subtitles: none Film Rating: not rated Release Date: September 26, 2006. Rating: / Scare Factor: / Squirm Factor: / Billy Drago (Christopher), Youki Kudoh (Woman Prostitute), Michie Itô (Komomo) Screenplay by: Daisuke Tengan Directed by: Takashi Miike Controversial. Visceral. Intense. These three words are frequently used to describe this latest instalment in the Masters of Horror series by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Let me add some of my own descriptors: Haunting. Disturbing. Unsettling. Mortifying. This Master of Horror title is much different from the other 12 episodes it deserved a new squirm factor rating just to hit the point home: you will shift in your seat. Horror fans will applaud the efforts of Miike translating the novel ”Bokkee Kyoutee” (Very Scary) to a one hour film. But given the range of disturbing elements that exist in this episode, it is no wonder Showtime refused to air this on cable television. Filmed in Japan, the story follows an American Journalist Christopher, who after several years returns to a little remote island to find the love of his life: the prostitute Komomo. He promised to take her back to America and start a wonderful new life together. Since his initial search of the brothel is unsuccessful and the time is deep into the night, he takes the brothel as his only refuge and accepts the company of a mysterious deformed prostitute. When asking of Komomo’s whereabouts, Christopher learns that sometimes digging up the past to find “truth” can be a horrifying journey of lies and sin. On an island where nothing else exists but “demons and whores,” Christopher will find the true horror lies in the hearts of humans. Note: My comments below contain subtle hints of spoilers. Read at your own risk. Imprint is unarguably the most horrific of this series and contains a variety of horrifying elements. The film begins as a creepy ghostly tale that builds for the first 15 minutes. Imprint scares viewers with the supernatural as if it where to become an effective ghost tale. I admit it began to freak me out. At this point the film takes a distinct sharp turn from wrangling the viewer’s inner fears to one of visual horror: the torture and bondage of a prostitute. The execution of this scene, as explained in the audio commentary, is like what has become an acceptable culture of bondage in Japanese horror/soft core films. Mainstream North American audiences aren’t exactly used to this and it is not for the faint of heart. I think it will make even the toughest horror gurus unsettled. Depictions of this sort is what I expect while watching the Masters of Horror series. This is a horror film because it is 100% horrifying to watch. When watching a film of this genre, I’m not looking to be just grossed out (it usually looks fake anyways) or scared (make me jump now). I want my psyche to be attacked and Miike successfully does this with this story by portraying the darkest acts of humans. VIDEO QUALITY / This film is presented in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen and it looks much better than the past few entries I’ve reviewed. Even though the opening scene with the row boat treading across the foggy waters at late night looks staged, black level is very deep and shadow detail is excellent. The colour takes on a wide range of detail such as vividness in the brush contrasted with pale skin tones of the passengers in the moonlight. As the story continues, the interiors of the brothel have a warm cast over all colours. Skin tones of the woman and Christopher are slightly on the orange side, and the red clothing of the prostitutes never look oversaturated. Compression artefacts are reduced on this title although are still present as mosquito noise. Edge enhancement isn’t an issue. This is a better looking transfer than most other Masters of Horror titles. AUDIO QUALITY / I’ve decided to give this title a high score for the audio because I feel it utilizes sound as part of the storytelling rather than to provide a soundtrack. Specific sounds of interest effectively fade in and out depending on their importance in the scene but aren’t done in a way that is obvious and distracting as it is in many major motion pictures. Instead the sounds present direct the viewers attention to one thought or another heightening the feeling of suspense. The soundtrack is 5.1 and encoded in Dolby Digital, but this lossy format does a reputable job at delivering some detail of a certain Japanese instrument (I’m not sure what it’s called) in the center of the listening space. It does feel like this music soundtrack is crying for some sort of lossless presentation…I can only imagine the amount of detail lost here. But I can tell that the recording itself is very good and not a quick job. The only complaint is the forward sounding dialogue of Billy Drago which can be heavy and closely mic’d. It has little room ambiance with it making it sound too direct. The surround channels provide some depth the soundstage. The three front channels are the ones used the most. Imaging between left and right channels is used frequently for a wide soundstage that doesn’t always rely on the center channel. TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON A bit of LFE occasionally pops into the mix adding a bit of scare when using a tactile transducer. It is not always effective, but it’s satisfying when engaged. SPECIAL FEATURES / A plethora of features are included on this disc and is similar to what is on other Masters of Horror titles. “Imprinting: The Making of Imprint” (47.34, 16:9) - is a featurette featuring many cast and crew members such as Billy Drago, Takashi Miike, Mick Garris, the novelist of the story Shimako Iwai. They discuss how the piece was selected for this Showtime series. Also of interest is a bit about English “coaching” to Japanese actors who can’t speak English. ”I Am the Film Director of Love and Freedom: An interview with Takashi Miike” (41.23, 16:9) – interviews Miike in depth. Questions are posed on the screen and Miike talks about how he’s become a controversial director and about how he never considered himself to be one to direct horror. He considers the fact that he pushes his films to the limit and that is exactly what he did with Imprint. He wasn’t surprised it was banned from American television. ”Imperfect Beauty” – the Make-up and Special Effects of “Imprint” (22.01, 16:9) – features Miike’s prop guys who have worked with him on several films. It shows them testing out several pieces on the set and takes of filming with them. He’s a soft spoken guy but there is no doubt about his enjoyment in this field of work. An audio commentary with Chris D., author, musician and American Cinematheque Programmer as well as writer Wyatt Doyle of NewTexture.com go over this film with their likes and dislikes as well as what was done and what should have been done, etc. It’s worth a browse through. Also included on this DVD: Trailers - All of the Masters of Horror titles Sill Gallery featuring 57 stills Takashi Miike Bio Screenplay on DVD-ROM Screensaver on DVD-ROM Trailers for Room 6, Demon Hunter, and The Tooth Fairy IN THE END... By far the most unsettling entry into this series, Takashi Miike’s Imprint should be the title you’ll want to add to your collection. I sincerely hope that future instalments of the Masters of Horror become more horrifying such as this title, preying on our deepest fears. Horror doesn’t have to be disgusting for the sake of being disgusting. Horror doesn’t always have to be about psycho murderers running after innocent prey. Horror can be as simple as looking into the mirror and looking at ourselves - the human race - and the unthinkable things we do to one another. For more information on this series you can visit www.mastersofhorror.net. Mike Osadciw September 26, 2006.