Imprint (2006)

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Overall Rating 75%
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Ranked #5,116
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In the 1800s, an American returns to Japan to find the prostitute he fell in love with, but instead learns of the psychical and existential horror that befell her after he left. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: October 21, 2006
After sitting through this grueling experience of a movie, I think it's safe to say that Mick Garris and the folks behind the Masters of Horror series probably won't be inviting Takashi Miike back to do another episode. I don't say that because of the content found within his work, content that was deemed unfit for American audiences and eventually caused the episode to be banned from Showtime. I say this because Miike has made each and every other director involved with the first season of this television series look like amateurs when it comes to the world of horror.

Taking place in 19th-century Japan, our storyline for the evening focuses on an American named Christopher (Billy Drago) who is searching for a long-lost love - a prostitute that has been sold and traded countless times amongst the local whorehouses and brothels. It seems as though he met her years ago while, ahem, giving her a paycheck, and after she stole his heart, he promised her that he would return to take her back to America and away from this lifestyle. When he returned, he found that she had been sold numerous times since they met, so he's made it his life's mission over the last few years to find her and fulfill his promise.

This leads us to tonight, where we find Christopher on an island that has been converted into one huge whorehouse. He's heard that his love was working here not too long ago, and after asking around, he finds out that nobody on this island has heard of her. Discouraged, he decides to leave; however, since this is an island and all of the other men are shacked up with the ladies, there's no way off until morning. He decides to spend the night with a hideously-scarred lady (Youki Kudoh), not for the sex, but simply for the company, and as they talk, Christopher finds out that this lady may know where his love is... and what happened to her.

One thing I should point out before getting into the meat of this review is that I am a huge fan of Miike's work. I've repeatedly said that he is one of the best directors working today, and for the most part, each of his offerings are about as close to cinematic perfection as one could hope for. I'm pointing this out not to kiss his ass, but to dispel any fears of leniency that some may have when it comes time to give my opinion on his film. After all the controversy and hype surrounding this episode, I would have had no problems writing a scathing review of it had it been, shall we say, less than stellar. Yes, he's one of my personal favorite directors, but that doesn't mean that I'll turn a blind eye to any potential faults in his films; however, after watching the unnerving rawness and sheer brutality of his episode, I can safely say that Miike has done it again. Here is a film that will shock, disgust, and most importantly, scare you. There are a fair number of films that can accomplish those first two traits, but being a very jaded horror fan, there's not much that can do the latter. This is one of those rare few that have succeeded in pulling a genuine scare from yours truly.

Yes, this film will do a great job of pulling some scares out of the audience, but before getting into all of that, I'd like to point out that this is not the sanitized horror that American fans have come to expect. There is some truly disturbing stuff to be found here, and although I was disappointed when I heard Showtime pulled this episode, I can't say that I'm shocked. Featured within the running time of a mere hour is some extreme spousal abuse, incest, implied child rape, and more aborted fetuses than you can shake a stick at. Oh yes, and there's a torture sequence which puts Hostel to shame in every way imaginable. Think an ankle slicing or a blowtorch to the face is flinch-worthy? Well, you haven't seen what some people can do with a couple of "creative" uses of pins and incense sticks, and in typical Miike fashion, everything is shown in full detail for those of us watching at home.

Now, that's not to say that disgusting and disturbing imagery is the extent of this feature. The story that ties everything together is beautifully done, and after it gets going, it becomes one of the most unsettling pieces of work that I've seen in recent memory. There are so many pieces of it that I'd like to mention in this review, but to do so would spoil things far too much. Actually, even mentioning the storyline is a bit of a spoiler, as I feel that this is one of those movies where the less you know going in, the more you'll enjoy it. I personally picked this up with zero knowledge of the storyline found within (it's Takashi Miike, what'd you expect?), and watching the story unfold with no clue as to what would happen or where the story would go is an experience that isn't easily replicated. Suffice it to say, this is a rare treat for horror fans, and it's also one of those rare films that will more than likely scare even the most jaded of horror connoisseurs.

Do I really need to say any more? It doesn't get any better than this, and Miike has proven that not only does he rank up there with the other "masters" involved with this series, but he actually far surpasses them. Go watch any of the other episodes from the first season and then compare it to this - only a complete and utter moron would rank this as anything less than the best entry, hands down. 10/10.
Ginose #1: Ginose - added October 22, 2006 at 12:14am
Best episode of the series... Miike is a God... I just loved the imagery, and it was without a doubt worth the wait. 10/10
Cryptorchild #2: Cryptorchild - added December 12, 2006 at 10:13pm
Good lord, this episode is just crazy. You can plainly see why it was banned from Showtime. It is a bit shocking. I didn't like Billy Drago's acting though. A bit over-the-top for me. Also I agree with the review, the dialouge should of stayed Japanese, with english subtitles. I think the english slowed the pace down a bit and sort of dulled it. Miike proves, once again, he's a borderline insane genius. I wish he would do another episdoe for MOH but I don't see that happening any time soon.
grain of sand #3: grain of sand - added January 5, 2007 at 4:57am
I loved this flavorful entry into such a bland series, miike certainly shows whose boss here.

the torture scene in this film is one of my favorite, I love the technique and detail shown here and when its all done, the tortured looks almost like a bizarre art exhibit, its nothing less than beautiful.

the only thing that bothered me about this movie was Drago's acting, I really can't think of one roll I've seen this man act in that I've actually enjoyed or actually bought into.. sometimes you just have to shut out that one bad apple in a film and let the rest happen, which is what I did here.. I'd like to know why he was cast in this.
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #4: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added April 19, 2007 at 9:15am
What I love about Imprint is how creative the story is and the subtle beauty that outlines almost every shot. The all English dialogue did seem annoying but soon grew on me, accepting it as another neat addition to how different this film is from others. As for Billy Drago's acting, I was initially only bothered by it at a certain point, but later I just regarded him as being a combination of drunk and emotional after being told that Kimomo was dead.
Dametria #5: Dametria - added April 24, 2007 at 12:00pm
It was BANNED. THat alone should be enough to make you want to watch it.
Tristan #6: Tristan - added October 4, 2007 at 1:44am
This puts the torture scenes in Ichi The Killer to shame. Easily one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen. As far as fiction goes.
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