Netflix’s Homunculus Review: Hole in the Head

Homunculus is a psychological thriller movie directed by Takashi Shimizu and is based on the Manga of the same name. the movie stars Gô Ayano, Ryô Narita and Yukino Kishii, alongside other cast members.

What would you do if a mad scientist drills a hole in your head and later on you wake up with supernatural powers? Honestly, the fact that I have a huge hole in my skull is enough to give me nightmares, let alone seeing weird things with my left eye. Japanese supernatural thriller Homunculus, thus, makes for a seriously freaky watch.

Homunculus follows Susumu Nokoshi, who was once a rich financial guy but is now homeless. A fated encounter with medical intern Manabu Ito, however, changes his life.

The movie starts off with Ito luring Nokoshi into agreeing to a medical experiment. In exchange for money, the latter agrees to undergo a process known as trepanation, where a hole is drilled into a person’s skull so that it opens up the “third eye”. I am still sceptical about how probable this scenario would be, but in the movie, Nokoshi wakes up and sees absolutely crazy stuff in front of him.

The possibility of this happening is scary in and of itself. What makes Homunculus interesting and fun though are its performances. The movie rests upon the shoulders of its leads – the hole-bearing Nokoshi and the mad scientist Ito. Gô Ayano and Ryô Narita are great as their respective characters and bring forth the horrible situations that the film represents. You feel confused and bad for Nokoshi while being a little uncomfortable in Ito’s presence.

The cinematography, too, is really beautiful and looks awesome given the subject matter. However, the CGI parts don’t feel as real as they should’ve been to make us believe the crazy illusions that we see. The deeper Nokoshi goes into his crazed state, the more we are forced out of the believability of it all. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not realistic enough to make you gasp. Sometimes it’s a bit funny.

My biggest gripe with Homunculus, though, is the fact that the movie’s second half is one hell of a ride, but in a slightly disappointing way. The movie’s second half’s pacing and storyline are uninteresting and do nothing for the direction it could’ve taken. The twists are ok, but it just becomes more of a sob story than a thriller. Thus, instead of being thrilled or wondering what happens next, you just get a huge exposition dump that you just sit there and take in. I didn’t hate it, but it was kind of an expected route to take.

I liked the first half though and for the most part, it was interesting enough. I wanted to know what happens to the characters and why Ito was doing what he was doing. However, the explanation takes a very tried-and-tested route. Additionally, there was a scene involving sexual violence that I hated, not for the fact that it existed, but because it was unnecessary. The female characters don’t have much of a role in the movie other than sitting there waiting to be saved or being hookers.

Anyway, Homunculus should’ve had more of an eerie ambience and a more thrilling premise. Instead, it turns into a drama where everyone cries at the end. The reasoning behind people’s actions seems flimsy – while you understand that Nokoshi’s actions might be all over the place, with a hole in his head and all, the others’ actions just feel out of place.

Summing up: Homunculus

The Homunculus movie really had potential. The subject matter was interesting and if it were given better direction regarding the climax sequences, it could’ve shone. I haven’t read the Manga on which the movie is based, so I wouldn’t be able to give you a definitive answer about how different it is from the original story. However, it focuses on trauma and how that affects the human psyche and that was a good angle to watch. But whatever the case may be, watch this with a grain of salt.

Homunculus is streaming on Netflix.

Liked the Homunculus review? Read our other review here.

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Homunculus required the storyline to get a better direction instead of the route it took. Kudos to the performances though.

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