Main cast: Billy Drago (Christopher), Michie (Komomo), Youki Kudoh (The Woman), Kumiko Imai (The Woman’s Mother), Houka Kinoshita (The Woman’s Father), and Toshie Negishi (Madam of the House)
Director: Takashi Miike
Now this is a pleasant surprise: they actually had a Japanese director close the series with an episode that ended up never shown even on cable TV due to the presence of so many things that are normally considered a no-no over in America. Then again, we are talking about a Japanese director, and even better, the guy who shocked Western critics with Audition all those years ago. Since then, Takashi Miike had done a variety of things from gore to comedy to even animated kiddie stuff. Imprint is more of a straightforward horror, rather than something that blends the absurd, comedy, and gross-out stuff like he would typically deliver on a good day, but its horror is more down to earth, even psychological, and hence so much more terrifying as a result.
Billy, a journalist in the 19th century, returns to an island in Japan, seeking a prostitute named Komomo with whom he had a dalliance before. Apparently he told her that he would come back to her one day, and he is now here to keep that promise. Unfortunately, the woman seems to have vanished into thin air. It is only when he meets a prostitute with a slightly disfigured mouth, simply called The Woman in the credits, that he learns that Komomo had committed suicide during his absence. He presses the woman for details, but he is not prepared for the revelations that would come forth.
There are no monsters or aliens in here, but there is a torture scene that is very difficult to watch because it consists on simple, small, yet excruciatingly cruel things that one can do to another person. Based on a short story (Shimako Iwai’s Bokkee Kyotee), this one seems to be on a rampage to shock and horrify as many people as possible. Incest, abortion, infanticide, and more are all here, tossed into one gruesome mess of an episode designed to make everyone squirm.
Unfortunately, the story is quite the mess. Maybe it’s the script, or maybe it’s the fact that there is too much to be compressed into a single episode, but things never really come together here, and “twists” seem more like things pulled out of someone’s rear end just because. I am also not sure what to make of the fact that the Japanese folks here speak English even among themselves – this makes the show feel fake, I feel. I’d have preferred if they speak in their native tongue and let subtitles do the rest. Oh, and Billy Drago really overacts to an embarrassing degree, which can be unintentionally hilarious considering how more low key Youki Kudoh appears next to him.
The atmosphere, the dark themes, and the costumes all make Imprint resemble a nightmarish Japanese fantasy gone wrong. Normally, this is a good thing, but the end result feels more of a misfire than anything else. Still, the creepy parts are definitely worth a look.