EM Embalming (1999) – By Duane L. Martin

Crime
dramas are more commonplace nowdays. One only needs to turn on the
television to find themselves with a literal smorgesborg of shows, and
the theaters have several of these types of movies every year. We’ve
become so accustomed to seeing the same ol’ thing all the time that
it’s nice to see something different once in a while. In this case,
that "something different" is a film called Embalming. The Japanese
specialize in being different, so it was only natural that this movie
was going to be far more bizarre than anything you’d see on American
television or in American cinema.

Embalming is the story of a woman named Miyako who became an embalmer
after seeing as a teenager how perfect and lifelike her mother’s body
was presented at her funeral. The story starts out with Miyako being
invited by her policeman friend to visit the scene of a suicide. The
teenage boy who committed suicide was the son of a high ranking
politician, and his family wanted their son’s body restored completely
for the funeral. During the embalming process, which is shown in a very
technical way, Miyako finds a needle in the teenager’s neck. Suddenly,
the suicide doesn’t seem so much like a suicide anymore. Now this is
where it gets confusing, and I must admit I had a hard time keeping the
story straight at this point.

There’s a bogus religious leader who used to be a doctor working on
ways to cure mental illness. He’s basically a cult leader at this
point, but while he was doing his research, he found that if you stab
the area right below the ear with a needle, it’ll make the body go into
a state of virtual paralysis for a short time. That doesn’t come up
until later though. Initially, he spends his time trying to stop Miyako
from doing her "evil work." Well Miyako refuses to be intimidated and
goes ahead with the embalming process. Once she had finished though,
the boy’s head was cut off and stolen. Thus beginning an investigation
that ultimately leads to her finding her long lost father, who used to
be a physician, who due to unethical practices, was relegated to
becoming an embalmer, and was actually the person who embalmed her
mother. He’s now nothing more than a criminal, supplying organs to the
black market.

To go into who committed the crime and why would be to give away the
whole story, but in the end, things got so convoluded and confusing
that it took me a while after it was over to figure it all out, and
even then I wasn’t too sure what the whole story was. This isn’t a bad
thing though because it actually makes you think about what you saw
rather than leaving it as just another disposable crime drama.

One of the highlights of this movie were the scenes of the embalming
process itself. They were done in a very technical and methodical way
and it was really very interesting to watch. Most people are unfamiliar
with the process and actually seeing how it’s done and how even
accident and suicide victims can be made to look whole again is just
facinating. The whole thing is about preserving the dignity of the dead
and allowing the family to say goodbye in a proper way, rather than
being traumatized by seeing their loved ones in a horrific state of
trauma and death. It really comes across in the film that Miyako takes
pride in her work and really cares about giving the dead the dignity
that they deserve.

Embalming is a very different kind of a film. It’s original, and
doesn’t just follow along the same old stale plot lines that so many
other crime dramas seem to adhere to. There’s bizarre twists, a world
of black market organs, a psychotic girl with multiple personalities,
realistic scenes of the embalming process, corrupt religious leaders,
and more. It leaves you guessing for much of the movie as to what
actually happened and why, leading you to a false conclusion initially
and then ultimately taking you down a far more bizarre path later on.

Is this movie for everybody? Not really. It’s a crime drama and you
have to like crime dramas and or psychological thrillers to appreciate
it. Those who do will like the film, and those who don’t probably won’t
get too much out of it unless they’re horror fans and enjoy watching
scenes of organs being removed from dead bodies that aren’t really
fully dead, and technical shots of bodies being embalmed, which were in
fact some of the best scenes in the film.

If you’d like to pick up this disc, or check out some of ArtsmagicDVD’s other releases you can check out their website at http://www.artsmagicdvd.com.