on July 11, 2004
there were a few times during this movie that i had to walk out with my friends and smoke a cigarette just to chill out a bit. i know alot of people can just watch wave after wave of psyche-defying mutilation and giggle, and i thought i could, but i really can't. honestly, people say the message this movie offers has nothing to give to an american public. i disagree. i find the message all too relevant.
i liked the movie. not so much for the particulars of cinematography or linear plotline, but for the awesome GEEK moments. i hope that if i ever jump off a building and land on my wife on the way down, she'd go and get a cup of coffee afterwards. that and if for nothing else, you must see the character called GENESIS. HE IS HOTTER THAN YOU!
With an opening scene so shocking and disturbing as to be deemed infamous by many, 2002's Jisatsu saakuru (aka Suicide Club) grabs you by the throat, thrashes you around for an hour or so, temporarily morphs into some kind of weird rock and roll opera, gives you another kick in the solar plexus, and then bids you on your way - a little confused about what the heck you just witnessed. The film will probably be just a little bit too open to interpretation for Western audiences, but by gum I freaking loved this movie. While American horror directors seem to base all of their films on a shared database of five scripts, the Japanese are continuing to revolutionize the horror film day in and day out.
If you've ever heard of this film from director Sion Sono, you probably already know how the movie opens. You've got a group of Japanese school girls (fifty-four in all) talking and giggling one minute, and then joining hands and jumping in front of an oncoming train the next. I wanted to stand up and applaud right here in my room because it's so shocking and so well done. Yes, we gorehounds can critique the manner in which the blood first appears, but no one can question the effectiveness of so much blood literally going everywhere. Shinjuku Station almost instantaneously turns into Splatter City, baby. The cops, led by Detective Kuroda (Ryo Ishibashi) investigate, but there's not much they can do about a mass suicide - not until the pattern of suicides continues to the point that they have to consider the possibility that someone is murdering these kids in some kind of incomprehensible way. The second scene of multiple suicides is almost as unnerving as the first, and as time goes on individuals - including adults - begin taking their own lives, as well, a fact which sort of undermines any cult group theories. A couple of mysterious informers - one calling herself The Bat and the other a child who continually clears his throat after every sentence - as well as a distinctly weird web site provide some insight into the subject, but the clues they provide are pretty cryptic. Believe it or not, events actually take an even darker turn later in the film.
As is so often the case with Japanese horror, some of the deeper aspects of this film may not make perfect sense to those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, but I daresay any horror fan cannot help but be impressed by what goes on here (those who can't stomach a little blood and gore, though, probably won't last very long). It's a really dark story, and some of its central images are of the type that you won't be forgetting any time soon. I'll admit that the story didn't answer all of my questions, especially at the end, but this is horror on the cutting-edge and I loved every minute of it.
on June 1, 2004
Suicide Club is extremely intriguing and itself is a cinematic puzzle. If you are not in the mood for thinking about a movie this movie is certainly not for you. While the film can be EXTREMELY disturbing at times ( especially at the beginning of the film). The effects of the deaths are rather cheesy but the movie is more of a shock/psychological thriller. A puzzle it self I believe the habitants of Tokyo could relate to this film much better than us Americans! I mean the sining group of girls who sing songs about mail and how the world is a giant jigsaw puzzle? I am sure they have bands like that in Japan. The little girls songs seem to show a hidden message of suicide ( you will see). Of course I seem to lose it when the teen is being interrogated by the little death children and they clap every time she responds? Or the part when the detective comes home and you see his daughter then I wonder what the f*** happened to the stupid people. Then the director kills of the main character so how does the movie end. If the director didn't have such a pure vision for his film and bothered make some sense and it THEN I WOULD GIVE IT 5 STARS!
on May 14, 2004
It was definitely confusing though. Immediately after finishing the movie I couldn't decide if I liked, or really did NOT like, "Suicide Club". I think much of the criticism stems from this being a Japanese social commentary, which is constructed very differently from American movies. There's no attempt to tie the loose ends or reason out the actions of the characters, although it's possible that some of the meaning was lost in the translation. Americans like their movies to make sense within the context of an overall plot. Making sense was not a top priority in this movie - the commentary was.
The central question is the relationship of self with respect to modern pop society. Regardless of WHO was doing the killing or HOW they killed, it is the degradation of core values in the face of pop commercialism that is symbolically killing the youth of Japan. In asking the question "what is your relationship to yourself", the older generation could not comprehend the paradox because they could not relate to the pressures and unknowns plaguing the younger generation. In their quest to understand their relationship to themselves, the younger generation turns not to a stable core society but to pop culture, which in turn kills them (via suicide).
I think the execution of the film would make much more sense to native Japanese, or perhaps they would not be as critical of the plot holes. The movie does meander, and the subplots are never fully explored or resolved. And yes, the whole character of Genesis seemed contrived, especially since I had no idea who he was or what he represented. Didn't like him torturing pets. Really didn't like his singing.
As for the violence, the movie isn't that gory. Certainly "Seven" was far worse, or for that matter "Kill Bill". In fact the blood scenes weren't done that well, but the cheerfulness the kids have before their suicides is chilling.
This is a good movie. The idea of cute Japanese girls slaughtering themselves alone is worth a look, and the social commentary is quite interesting. Just be prepared to end the moving asking "But what about..."
on March 24, 2004
On the night of May 26th, 54 school girls descended the stairs of Tokyo's Shinjuki Station. While crowds of people gathered together on Track 8, these students (who had arrived from 18 different schools) stepped behind the platform's yellow line. Suddenly, in an unprecedented act of escapism, all the girls jumped in front of an oncoming train. Amid the screams of terrified and dumbfounded spectators, an ocean of blood splashed on the walls as bodies were crushed under the screeching wheels.
The gruesome spectacle I just described is a mere opener to 2002's "Suicide Club," a mindblowing horror film written and directed by Shion Sono. Mixing a generous helping of gore into a detective mystery, this film warns adults of a growing tragedy noticed through careful observation: a homogenized holocaust of bubblegum consumerism. What makes this movie all the more chilling is how self-destruction has become another innocuous fad embraced by adolescents. With peer pressure in the air, teenagers clap and cheer as their best friends leap off tall buildings and hang themselves to chase the hottest thrill.
In the center of "Suicide Club" is a cheerful, all-girl pop group called Dessart. Their latest single, "Mail Me," is topping the charts as manufactured Dessart products are sold to the masses. Meanwhile, the Tokyo police department searches for clues linked to the train suicides. Among the members are Kuroda (Ryo Ishibashi), Shibu (Masatoshi Nagase), and Murata (Akaji Maro). At first, these three gentlemen believed that the deaths were forced upon victims by an underground cult. However, the plot is twisted when Shibu gets a phone call from The Bat (Yoko Kamon), a woman who is intrigued by a rather strange web site. On [...] are rows of red and white dots. Each single dot represents another person's suicide, and more dots appear on the monitor immediately before the deaths happen. Later, it's revealed that at almost every crime scene, a white sports bag is mysteriously left behind. Inside it is an incredibly grisly souvenier: a coiling belt stitched from the victims' skins. Apparantly, every time a person dies, his/her flesh is added to the bleeding band. However, it's never known as to who is actually doing the handiwork.
During the movie's scenes of satire, citizens all over Tokyo take their own lives as part of the morbid entertainment. A heavy stand-up comedian slits his throat. A young girl inserts her head into a gas stove. There's even a moment when a smiling mother methodically slices off her fingers on a cutting board. Here, to truly alarm us, her husband and children never pay attention; they are too busy watching a Dessart chocolate commerical in the family den. Obviously, a sinister plot to destroy human life is connected to the Dessart members. It's up to the viewer to decide what that is. Could the group's songs contain subliminal messages intended to brainwash record buyers? Are the five members demonic forces that snatch and swallow desperate souls? Or are the girls just pawns manipulated by outside enemies?
Perhaps the most memorable character in the film can be none other than Genesis (Rolly), a sadistic rock singer with bleach blond hair, eyeliner, and black sequins. As an American viewer, I can best describe him as a volatile mix of David Bowie, Dr. Frankenfurter, and Cecil B. Demented. In the latter half of the film, Genesis kidnaps The Bat and drags her into a bowling alley, where he and his band members rape young women and torture house pets. In an insane effort to gain public notoriety, he labels his group "The Suicide Club" and boldly claims to have used the Internet to instigate a blood revolution. From here, it looks like the carnage has ended. But shortly after Genesis's arrest, another 200 red dots show up on the computer! What's important about this particular moment is how it reflects the controversy surrounding rock stars: it reminds us of how such shocking acts (like Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson) are wrongly blamed for encouraging impressionable teens to kill themselves. In a way, "Suicide Club" brings the musical outcast to life as well as the fashionable trendsetters.
If you desire a cinematic work with stunning images and a daring concept, then I recommend this movie for your collection. No American remake can do justice.
on March 23, 2004
The movie simply out, has no story to it. Groups of people jump off of buildings, or in front of oncoming trains, body parts fly everywhere, and our heroes, the local cops, try to make sense of it...oh yes, the internet is thrown in ( i guess that's like saying movies in the 1940's had automobiles ). In this case, the net supposedly has clues to what is causing this mass self killings. In the end, no sense is made at all---clearly the writer and director had a message about the hateful sameness of life in crowded Japan, where everyone looks the same ( japanese culture is notoriously intolerant of different ethnic groups ), and everyone does the same thing, riding crowded commuter trains and the worshipping commercial blaring tv at home. A weak attempt is made towrds the end to explain the effort of some sort of either a cult or perhaps even a master force that communicates via the medium of the moment ( WWW, TV ) to get it's message of suicide to the next chosen group, ( naturally, the HQ of the master force is a tv station ) but it is never explained and makes absolutely no sense.
one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
on March 8, 2004
Suicide Club has to be one of the weirdest films I've ever seen! It's great! I worry that we've gotten too used to Hollywood-style films, where everything has to happen for a reason and all the loose ends get cleared up before the popcorn goes cold and the Coke goes flat. Suicide Club (Suicide Circle?) is pretty much the antithesis of a matinee flick. It's disturbing, it's confusing and it has a post-modern ironic streak a Bullet-train long. It's nearest American comparison would be Blair Witch project, or Final Destination - they too employ the same themes of a malevolent, unknown force messing with the minds of mankind, but this is very definitely a Japanese flick, lots of suspense, lots of intrigue, very little explanation, much like the original Ring(u).
Is there a deeper meaning behind it all? Did the filmmakers cop out of a neat explanation? You'll have to watch and make your own mind up - personally I think it's intentionally ambiguous - it's designed to freak you out not knowing what the hell happened; much more unsettling and disturbing that way than having the butler do it.
Some scenes are visually brilliant and memorable - not least of these is the scene in the preview that isn't in the movie, where the fax machine starts spitting hair out? Fantastic! The sinister nature of our supposedly benign technology represented here by the Internet and text messages and secret web sites is one that I'm sure will inspire a lot more movie as time goes on. I hope they all are as great as this one!
on March 4, 2004
"Wow, oh, wow," you think to yourself as 54 Japanese schoolgirls march down the subway stairs. A mass of chaos, they are, some conversing with each other, others talking on the phone, and others yet doing who-knows-what. The group heads down on over to the tracks to wait for the train to come, stepping right behind the yellow line. The sign warning people to stay behind the aformentioned line catches your attention when suddenly, the girls step past the line and join hands in an abrupt show of unity. Swinging their hands, they sing to three. But you can't hear them past 'two." The thundering train blocks out all other sound. That is until the they take the fatal jump, and a cacophonous cocktail of crunching bones, tearing flesh, and horrified screams floods your ears.
...and so Suicide Circle begins.
Sadly, as well as it knows how to do that, it doesn't know much else. Following the appalling (but darkly comedic) introduction is a poorly structured narrative about an epidemic of suicides in Japan and the detective who must uncover the link behind them all.
The film tries to intertwine different stories into the central plot but fails miserably. These include the Bat, a seemingly mysterious woman who knows of the titular club, and a girl whose boyfriend takes part in the morbid trend. The latter actually concludes the story in poorly-tied ending. The main story about the detective isn't even that interesting, focusing only on the age-old dilemma of family or career.
Suicide Circle attempts to throw people off towards the end of the movie, but the twist isn't developed well enough. The ambiguity of the ending could be argued as an artistic decision, but considering that everything else was so ostensible, I would lean towards a bad story.
It tries to be a commentary on today's society's obsession with pop culture, but this aspect seems to have been a complete afterthough. Ironically enough, this film only mindlessly contributes to our modern culture's fascination with the macabre and gory without bringing great insight. It contradicts itself.
The music is alright, but the in-movie pop group Dessert actually churns out some pretty catchy tunes, something that's creepy once you actually realize their significance.
In the end, Suicide Club will probably be remembered for its absurd plot and its gory death scenes, but not much else. Like a speaker who does not prepare his speech, Suicide Club does not bring its point across well, a serious impairment for a movie with such a powerful and important statment to make.
DVD extras contain trailers and stills. Hard subtitles are a negative, and with a price like that, it's robbery. A package without bells-and-whistles. Buy this only if you're really curious or must complete a collection.
on March 1, 2004
What's extraordinarily frustrating about SUICIDE CLUB is the fact that the film desperately wants to BE about something. Beyond the stark images, beyond the sketchy plotlines that try to connect cults to teenage fanaticism to the Internet to a fascinating police procedural, CLUB tries very hard to convince the viewer that "it's all going somewhere" despite the lack of rhythm or a true narrative center.
The set-up is, however, incredible: 54 high school girls join hands and leap to their deaths in a seeming act of joy from a subway platform onto the tracks and the crunch of an oncoming train. Blood flies everywhere (the film has more than a handful of truly horrific images), and a mysterious suitcase filled with a long train of interwoven human skin is only the first domino to fall in a growing phenomenon of group suicides.
In the end, however, CLUB commits its own form of suicide by taking the easy way out, apparently blaming what appeared to be an unexplainable national 'Manchurian Candidate' phenomenon on one very, very bad pop song.
on February 28, 2004
The film starts off wonderfully with the infamous multiple train-jumping suicide. It's right there on platform 8, the chuo-sen (I will definitely think odd thoughts next time I catch that one!), the music from Shinjuku station is going, and the very creepy combination of such akarui kids all jumping - why? Something is just wrong, in the air... This is followed up by some very disturbing scenes of more suicides, all very intriguing, is it murder? Is it mass hysteria, codes in the pop culture? Alienation in society itself being sparked by...?
So there are clues, the police get involved, all very good. Lots of nice dark things to think about, to ponder on. Some very intriguing and wonderfully horribly disturbing things could be going on...
But they don't. Instead, the plot falls apart (perhaps it jumped). Things change from a good mystery to... what, exactly? There are some more gory scenes (including a self-mutilation scene that I couldn't bear to look at) but none of it is nearly as disturbing or intriguing as the first part of the film, because nothing is tied together.
I am not someone who demands a neat ending, but the entire genre of the film switches abruptly in the middle. It's not that the mystery isn't solved, but rather that it's forgotten along the way. I am also not a regular horror film viewer, but merely shocking gore does not a creepy dark film make.
As someone who came up in Japan I would recommend renting it just for the imagery of the opening parts, particularly if you've ever been there on platform 8 or gone to high school. But I'd probably pass on buying it, as someone who prefers a good story.