SPECIAL FEATURE: DVD Review: Tamami: The Baby's Curse

Film: Tamami: The Baby's Curse
Running time: 100 mins
Director: Yudai Yamaguchi
Starring: Nako Mizusawa, Goro Noguchi, Takumi Saito
Genre: Horror
Country: Japan

This title has not been released in the UK.

How do you kill something that can’t be killed? Horror movies have struggled over the years to answer this question, whilst some studios have made a fortune by refusing to answer it. Refreshing then, that Director Yudai Yamaguchi has gone that extra mile, researched his subject matter thoroughly and found the possible solution. You get it to apologise. If you thought Chucky was the most dishonourable ankle-biter to grace our screens then allow Yamaguchi to introduce you to Tamami, another toddler with an axe or two to grind.

The story begins with Yoko, a 15-year-old girl who is about to be reunited with the parents she thought she never had. Residing in a storm-lashed mansion reminiscent of a good majority of creepy houses from countless horror movies, it’s no surprise that Yoko is a little bit apprehensive. That’s before she meets the haggard housekeeper with seemingly no knowledge of their arrival.

Insisting they leave immediately, the man from the orphanage persuades her to allow Yoko to stay, despite no sign of the parents eagerness to meet her after all these years (father is at work in the research tower - and nobody bothers him when he’s at work!).

Her first night away from the orphanage is an arduous one; the harsh sounds of a baby screaming encourage her to explore the abode, leading her to a room she soon wants to vacate, quickly. In her rush to escape she is attacked by an unseen terror, hardly the welcoming she had envisaged. It’s a lot worse for the man from the orphanage, though - his apparent departure a hair-raising experience if ever there was one.

With the ordeal brushed off as a dream, Yoko finally meets her parents; her mother is a complete loon, cradling a toy bear in her arms, whilst her father defends his wife by revealing how an incendiary bomb separated the family all those years ago, causing her obvious derangement.

Yoko finally begins to settle but with an insane mother, sinister housekeeper and oblivious father it’s not long before people start dying, a mysterious stranger comes-a-calling and Yoko’s confronted by a 15-year-old mutant baby that “just doesn’t know when to stop…”

Passing itself off as a fairytale, Yamaguchi is almost forgiven for using every cliché in the book; a stormy night, a hauntingly beautiful mansion, the howls of wild dogs – and that’s before they reach the front door, creaking open when nobody comes to answer. It continues for a good twenty minutes; open windows, trees scraping against the glass, fluttering curtains, all forcing Yoko into a room filled with, yes, scary dolls and an empty cot. Even the housekeeper has been dragged out of Hill House – she may as well have ‘can’t be trusted’ carved into her forehead.

Interest is kept because its atmospheric visuals are so gorgeous to feast on, pulling the viewer into this small but perfectly formed world immediately. It’s a shame more attention wasn’t paid elsewhere because a problem pretty visuals can’t disguise is the dialogue. It should always have purpose, but the whole point is we watch a movie. We want to see, not hear. So, short, simply constructed sentences should not reveal the entire backstory in order to move the story along as quickly as possible. Image instead of dialogue would add more mystery to proceedings; instead by the halfway mark there are no surprises, and no conundrums left to solve.

To add insult to injury, as the film progresses, pointless flashbacks begin to grate more than the repetitive giggling of Tamami. It’s not just her laughter that annoys. For forty minutes there is playful teasing, the evil left to lurk in the shadows; imaginations are often far worse than the real thing, after all. And they certainly are here. By finally showing us Tamami in all her glory, Yamaguchi has two options; continue to play it straight or take us on a joyous romp injected with humour and farce only a 15-year-old baby playing the monstrous villain truly merits. It worked for Child’s Play. Sadly, unlike Tom Holland and his ‘80s masterpiece, Yamaguchi plays it straight.

This wouldn’t be too bad if there was a bit of tension and suspense. Chucky had some fantastic set-pieces, but with this movie, nearly every scare has no build up; here one second, gone the next. Only in the final act do we actually witness some cat and mouse action, but a giant mutated baby leaping manically about the screen is hardly edge of the seat stuff. The seat was vacated a long time ago.

A noble effort, but Yamaguchi struggles to maintain a sense of unease and wonder as the plot disappears and the absurdities pile up. Clichéd and lacking any kind of tension, this whole adventure ultimately feels rather pointless, questioning why it’s Tamami, not the director, who is so desperate to apologise. DW

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