“A dude winds up in a washing machine,” my college boyfriend told me. “It’s really weird.” For decades, that was the only thing I knew about Uzumaki. I wanted to see it more than anything in the world.
The mid-2000s were a big time for J-horror. Gore Verbinski’s Ring adaptation had been a hit, and English-language filmmakers were adapting everything they could get their hands on (The Grudge, Dark Water) or else just ripping it off (Hard Candy from Audition, The Hunger Games from Battle Royale).
Uzumaki was the odd man out, the story so strange that it couldn’t cross the water. A town is invaded by the abstract concept of “spirals,” with deadly and sometimes washing-machine-inflicted results. What those results might be were left to my imagination; at the time, you needed to get a physical copy of something in order to watch it, and such a copy never surfaced for me. Finally, this year, I was able to find it online.
It’s true: A dude does wind up in a washing machine. (He puts himself in there, to be exact. It’s gross.) It is really weird — self-consciously so, in every moment, so that you doubt you can take it seriously. Then you begin to take it seriously, and it works up an aura of cosmic dread unlike anything else I’ve seen.