The Best Netflix Original Horror Movies Of 2021 (So Far)
“Homunculi show you everything you want to see; everything else is just imagination.”
Takashi Shimizu’s “Homunculus” unpacks the ways that we connect with each other, wrapped in the genre safety of sci-fi and horror. Nakoshi (Gô Ayano) is a homeless amnesiac, struggling to relate to anyone. His apathy is such that he consents to an experimental medical procedure, telling the student Ito (Ryô Narita) that he doesn’t care if it makes him “a vegetable.”
The procedure, called trepanation, bores a nickel-sized hole in the patient’s skull with “Driller Killer” levels of intensity and results in the emergence of the homunculus, a part of the brain that can reveal people’s innermost pain when Nakoshi covers his right eye and peers at them through his left (this results in poor Ayano spending half the movie acting out of one half of his face, but his expressiveness more than compensates). Similar stories have been executed before — The Pang Brothers’ 2002 “The Eye” has a blind musician given a corneal transplant with the nasty side effect of seeing dead people — but this live-action adaptation of Hideo Yamamoto’s manga of the same title is a stellar execution of an ambitious concept.
Bonus: Yamamoto also wrote the “Ichi the Killer” seinen manga that Takashi Miike would later adapt into the infamous cult hit, so with “Homunculus” you’ll see similar recurring themes on the human mind, deviant behavior, and criminal subcultures. Straddling genres but leaning hard into science fiction, “Homunculus” is writer-director Takashi Shimizu’s surreal and soulful meditation on what it means to reach out to someone.