26 June 2012 | cremea
Don't be a woman who's born into this family!
Orochi is a 2008 Japanese movie that is borderline crazy, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. Nevertheless, it is most certainly very odd!...Now, before anyone chimes in to tell me this film hardly even registers as being strange by Japanese movie standards, I too have seen much more off the wall weirdness in many other J films. There's just something about the way this particular film goes about its business that is uniquely peculiar; this is usually a fairly straightforward film that primarily follows a predictable path and story, but there are an occasional number of scenes, subplots, and tonal changes that almost seem as if they were spliced in from other movies. It's not so much "over the top" weird as it is "out of place" weird. But, since this is horror/suspense/thriller/mystery tale, you can argue that all this weirdness adds to the viewer's overall experience in some type of "down the rabbit hole" context, or not, that's up to you to decide for yourself!
Here's the simple plot summary: This movie focuses on two young sisters who live and grow up in their mother's famous movie star shadow. Mother is very demanding and quite a bit crazy in insisting her daughters follow in her footsteps (think "Mommy Dearest" crazy), but the two sisters care enough for each other that they work together as the best they can for themselves while trying to grow up under the presence of overbearing and loony mother. Flash forward to when the sisters are adults; one is now a famous actress and the other is not, and as a result of this and their upbringing (and the family history of mental illness), cracks in their relationship begin to form, then they each slowly & subsequently spiral out of control into madness.
The mental and physical abuse (and psychological issues) in this family runs long and deep. Mother was nuts, daughters are becoming nuts, everybody is nuts; this aspect alone would have made for a sufficiently entertaining movie based on the execution and relative film time devoted to this theme. But, screw it, let's crank up the weirdness factor and send this movie into overdrive...
Let's start by placing most all the scenes of this movie in and around an old creepy mansion complete with weirdo butler/doctor and staff. The mental illness inherent to all the women in this family quickly takes a back seat to the fact that all of these women also inevitably fall prey to some bizarre flesh eating disease/family curse that strikes them down during the prime of their lives. Generations of mothers who fell ill to the family curse are chained to a bed post in the attic until they wither away and die one by one, only to soon be replaced by the next generation.
Aside from the two sisters, there's a 3rd primary character in this movie named Orochi (who narrates and guides the viewer through the events that occur during the movie at various times). Orochi is apparently an immortal being with supernatural powers who takes an interest in the family and comes and goes throughout the movie seemingly at will. Two of the three main actresses play dual roles; for much of the film, the actress who plays Orochi inhabits the body of a maid that the sisters later purchase for nefarious reasons as they get closer and closer to their curse deadline, and one of the sisters is also the same actress who plays the sisters' mother when they were younger. If one didn't know any better, you would think some of the casting decisions, and scenes & events that take place in this movie, seem to hinge solely upon which pile of pills the director and cast decided to choke down before each morning's shoot.
Honestly, I'm really not sure what to even make of this film. I wouldn't dispute anyone's opinion that this movie is way out of control and often doesn't make sense, but I would also tend to agree with anyone that thinks the primary story is solidly, and often deliriously, entertaining.
For what is essentially a horror film, there is not really any scary jump out moments, and there is a minimum amount of gore throughout. Instead, it's mostly all about the two protagonists ever increasing decent into psychological insanity. Despite all of the weirdness, there is enough here for me to recommend it overall for the most part. It primarily works due to the underlying theme and story, and because of the two lead actresses' ability to pull it all off fairly successfully. It also appears both actresses had a delightful time making this movie, as they each get to increasingly try to out act and out crazy each other in order to fully emphasize the love-hate relationship these two highly disturbed sisters have for one another.
Not unquestionable or without its faults, but this film is frequently engaging, often bizarre, consistently creepy, and most importantly, More than Enjoyable Enough!
7 out of 10 stars.