SUICIDE CLUB (Sono Sion, 2001)
Hollywood take note: this is how you make an exploitation film. It is gory, it is funny and it even manages to raise a few pseudo-philosophical questions. It is Japanese (this kind of film always is), but that should not prevent it from becoming a huge, global success.
"Suicide Club" is about, well, suicide. Heaps of them. At the beginning of the film, 54 giggling school girls at Tokyo's Shinjuku Station join hands and jump in front of an incoming train. What ensues is the greatest bloodbath in the history of film: severed heads, flying hands and gallons of blood splattered all over the train windows, the station and shocked bystanders' faces.
After this spectacular opening, the film seems to settle down a bit, but it is not long before more people die. Two nurses jump out of a window, seemingly without giving much thought to the act. And just when you think it cannot possibly get any more bizarre than this, a group of high school kids decides to hold a suicide competition, for as one of them says, "Fifty-four is a record we can beat." So they line up and, as if it is the most normal business in the world, jump off the school roof. About a hundred of them.
The above is just a description of what happens in the first twenty minutes of the film. In what follows, a serenely smiling housewife chops off her fingers while cutting a turnip, a funky-looking young woman who calls herself The Bat posts enigmatic messages on the Internet, a modern-day Dr Frank N Further tortures rabbits, and a girl band made up of prepubescent 12-year-olds sings pseudo-philosophical songs about wishing to receive more e-mail. And amidst all that, a detective (played by Ryo Ishibashi of "Audition" fame) tries to make sense of the situation, without much success.
"Suicide Club" works on many level. First and foremost, it is a magnificent exploitation film, with lots of nasty deaths, gory details and an outrageous sense of humour which is all the more successful for being completely deadpan. It is also a pretty good mix of a horror flick (check out the spooky close-ups of certain characters' eyes) and a detective story, albeit with a fairly vague ending. Most of all, though, it is a brilliant satire on Japanese society, with a message I hope the Japanese will take to heart.
"Suicide Club" is everything "Battle Royale" tried to be and wasn't. It is some of the most wicked fun I have seen, and I have no trouble recommending it to those of you in need of some good, gross-out humour.