Did you know they made a live-action adaptation of Hideo Yamamoto’s beloved cult manga … no, not Ichi The Killer, Homunculus, directed by Ju-On/The Grudge creator Takashi Shimizu, and it just released internationally at the end of april as a Netflix esclusive?
I didn’t, had to find out via good ol’ FreddyInSpace via twitter, and he himself didn’t notice earlier, because this is indeed one of the downsides of the “content machine” streaming service model.
Homunculus is about Susumu Nakoshi, an amnesiac and emotionally stunted clochard who decides to be the guinea pig for the rich medical student Manabu Ito, interested in experimenting to see if drilling the skull of a man could awaken otherwise unaccessible or dormant senses, as well as recoving memories or activate esp powers.
The experiment goes well, too well, as Susumu is now able to see – while covering his right eye – the titular homonculi, possibly physical manifestations of the human mind’s most intimate and recondite desires, traumas and symbolic projections of selves (a man split in two halves walking side by side, a sand girl, etc).
While it retains most elements from manga and for the first half it’s fairly faithful adaptation, halfway through it strays further and further, as things take a twist for the mundane, squandering the potential given by the source material on generic drama, making for less interesting characters and events. Even the borrowed odd visuals feel underwhelming or underused.
It’s not a bad movie or a complete failure, but it’s a really disappointing adaptation (especially because this could actually have worked in a live-action context), and worse, even taken on its own it’s just a movie unable to do or properly develop pretty much anything of substance in its 2 hours run, leading to a fittingly unsatisfactory ending.