I had a difficult time reviewing this one. Why? For starters, writer’s block. The words didn’t come to mind to properly describe the experience easily. Secondly it is a little bit unconventional in that it’s not actually a film from our neighbors from the north. It’s an episode of a cable television series, from the USA — the Masters of Horror series. So why is there a review being written for it? This question brings me to the hardest thing about writing this review. The episode in question was directed by the infamous Takashi Miike, of Ichi the Killer, Audition and Izo fame/infamy.
The story of imprint is set sometime in the late 1800’s when Japan was opening its borders to foreigners after a period of great isolation. Christopher, played by Billy Drago (best known for playing Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables), is scouring the countryside of Japan for an old girlfriend, Komomo, who was sold into prostitution, so that he can make good on his promise to take her back with him to America. His search takes him to an island that is populated only by prostitutes and their masters. Although he is told that Komomo isn’t on the island, he should stay the night in a brothel because where else is he going to sleep? Choosing a girl whose face is deformed for the night, he drinks sake and asks the girl for a bed time story.
She tells the tale of her childhood and the fate of what happened to Komomo. However the story doesn’t quite feel right to Christopher and he demands the truth. What follows is a lot like the Jet Li film Hero; with each telling the onion layers peel back to the disturbing truth of the torture and death of Komomo and the real childhood of the girl prostitute. Or does it? The final scenes of the film pull out a twist that is ultimately left up to the viewer to decipher.
In terms of performances by the actors this doesn’t really stand out from other horror films that have been released. This might have been due to language barriers as the entire episode is spoken in English which as far as I’m aware is not the first language of the director or the majority of the supporting and main cast. The camera work is not flashy or showy for the most part, with most of the action happening mainly in long, usually static shots that reminded me of a play more than film. However the last shot — as well as many of the more disturbing ones — is something that I will remember for a very long time. In a work so confronting in its depictions of violence, torture and the aftermath of that time period’s abortion procedures, the final shot, although steeped in some dark depressive mood, should be placed on a wall in an art museum somewhere.
I don’t know if it’s Miike’s most violent or disturbing work, having only seen Ichi the Killer and The Happiness of the Katakuris, but it’s something that for good or bad will stay in my mind for quite awhile. This episode of Masters of Horror was so controversial that it was not broadcast upon the first run of the series. Mick Garris, the creator, was quoted as saying of the final work, “Amazing, but hard even for me to watch… definitely the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen”. This can only be really enjoyed by long-time fans of Miike, however I’m not sure if it’s truly possible to “enjoy” Imprint, with those fans probably only watching it once for completionist reasons.
This is shocking stuff that truly deserves its R rating, or maybe a stronger rating.