Michiko is an unhappy young model whose body is going through some bizarre changes. She checks into the hospital where she is diagnosed with an highly unusual spinal-cord disorder that manifests itself in a superhuman elasticity, allowing her to stretch her neck to fantastic heights. In a subsequent story, a teenage girl obsessed with her expensive fake nails starts noticing that her real nails are growing at an alarming rate, to the point where she can't work, can't eat, can't function. Cutting her nails proves futile, as well as intensely painful. Eventually she is driven to drastic measures. In the last of three tales, Mana is a cruel and thoughtless high school student whose transformation involves a bizarre loss of identity.
While anthology films have a bad rep, these three grim tales of female bodily transformation co-exist through peripherally connected characters, imbuing the film with a fluidity that allows it to bypass the patchiness that plagues efforts at a similar structure. The Japanese title Yokai Kidan translates directly as “Strange Story of Monsters,” a title that deliberately conjures images of classic Japanese monster movies like 100 Monsters and Spook Warfare (both of which also feature the mythological long-necked woman). But what sets this film from director Toru Kamei (Double Suicide Elegy, 2005) apart is his use of the “yokai” concept to externalize the inner ugliness and turmoil of his characters.
Kamei's latest recalls the suspicion of femininity espoused in classic horror films like Cat People, Wasp Woman and The Reptile -- but the sombre tone of the film is all its own. Each girl is forced to undergo her respective transformation alone; the film emphasizes their physical and emotional isolation with a solemn score, moody lighting and the distinct lack of helpful authority figures. In this particularly terrifying reference to female puberty, each woman is driven to despair over her bodily changes -- which, at such an image-conscious age, can be deadly.
Director: Toru Kamei
Screenplay: Kenji Matsui, Yuji Nagamori, Toru Kamei
Cast: Chiyoko Asami