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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Netflix Diary: Suicide Club

Suicide Club
(Get Me Off This Stinking Little Island -- Oh wait, I'll just kill myself)
(Mail Me...lalalalalala)
(Beware the Pop Pre-Teen Girl Singing Group)

If you were going to combine 2 horror movies to make a new movie, which ones would it be? If you said "Children of the Corn" and "Halloween 3: The One Without Michael Myers", then have I got a movie for you. Suicide Club (In Japan, Suicide Circle) combines the two crappy movies so effortlessly that you don't realize it before it's too late, and the movie is over. Or maybe it just keeps the "Children of the Corn" part hidden until the final 20 minutes. The point is, these are 2 horrible, horrible movies. Halloween 3 may be the worst horror movie ever made. Just thinking about that song "3 more days 'till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween..." makes me want to stick the back end of a fork into my eardrum. But guess what: The songs in "Suicide Club" may be worse, and more insanely catchy. "Mail la la la la la." Mail this, dingleberry.

The movie opens with a scene that has been "talked about" by Japanese movie experts ever since it came out in 2002. It involves 54 teenage girls who casually walk to a subway train platform, cheerfully hold hands, and on a 3 count jump as one in front of a train. Ooo, disaffected youth. Due to the stylish camera movements, this would be a brilliant first scene -- except for a couple of things:

1) The blood-effects after the train hits the girls are ridiculous. A bucket of blood washes up on the side of the train. If the train hits the girls from the front, how does their blood form a river that hits the train's side? Also, blood splatters all over the waiting people on the platform, which is excessive but at least directionally plausible. And then there's the shot of one of the teenage girl's heads getting run over and bursting into flames. That's right, the Japanese ignite when crushed, or at least the director thinks they do.

2) Worse than the visual aftermath of the suicides is the music that's going on during the scene. It is happy, happy Japanese pop music. If I were to guess, I would say that it's probably made by the Japanese girl band that figures prominently in the movie's plot. However, I don't have to guess when I say that it completely undercuts the visuals of the scene. Blood is splattering, girl's heads are catching fire, and you hear happy happy in the background. It turns the scene from at least potentially dark and powerful to unintentionally funny. I mean, I laughed when the blood washed up on the side of the train. It's ridiculous -- almost like slapstick comedy. Am I watching Ringu or Evil Dead here? The fact that the director doesn't know, or isn't smart enough to distinguish the two, is the problem with most of the movie.

3) The girls are laughing and singing as they go down to the platform -- all except for one frowner, who looks pissed beyond words. Her sad visiage is never explained or mentioned again.

So, in the first scene the film announces itself as an unintentionally funny splatter film with a bunch of unexplained elements in it. Ooo boy, I get to be grossed out and confused tonight. But at least I'll laugh a little during it all.

For a movie like this with so many thematic elements introduced and than killed off or left by the cinematic roadside 5 minutes later, I like to recap by going through those elements instead of going chronologically, scene-by-scene. Oh, who am I kidding? I just don't want to have to relive this thing in chronological order. This movie contains:

Girl Band: These pre-teen girls (average age: 12.5, according to some cannon fodder in the movie) appear to be the only popular band in Japan during this time. That would explain the suicides, right? They are the only band that plays on the radio, and the only TV station that seems to exist in Japan plays their videos 24 hours a day. It's 5 girls singing about your typical girl band subjects("love", boys, fitting into society properly...these are Japanese girls, after all), except the lyrics are written in such a way that they also could be encouraging people to commit suicide. You really have to see it to believe it. It's a good bit.

Through most of the movie the band (named Dessart in subtitles at the beginning of the film, then switching to Dessret, Desert, and finally back to Dessart. Apparently they have one of them "Postmodern" band names that's open to interpretation. I wish all band names were like that. I'd pronounce "Bruce Springsteen" as "Overrated Sucka". The possibilites boggle the mind) appears just to be an omnipresent pop annoyance -- you don't think they could possibly have anything to do with these suicides. But by the end of the movie you realize that they were the catalyst for the whole movie, and the most important thing in it. Mike's Movie Rules #32 states: "Do not build your movie around a teenage pop star or stars. It will be bad if you do."
Looks like that rule still holds true.

You see, we find out late in the movie that the girl band Dessart (or whatever) has been using their music to influence people...and they do this pose on the front cover of their CD that spells out "suicide" in phone numbers/letters (you really have to see it to's kind of a cool bit, actually. In fact, there are a bunch of cool bits in the movie. They're just overrided by the stupidity of the main story, the shocking and pointless gore, and the crappy mood-destroying music). At the end of the movie, a bunch of other girls are presumably going to commit suicide at the same train station as the start of the movie, and all of their phones ring with the ringtone of "Mail Me," Dissort's biggest hit. Supposed to be creepy...but comes off as silly overmoviemaking in the light of all that's gone before it. Some of which is...

Cinnamon Rolls of Human Flesh: The description says it all. You see, the people who commit mass-suicide all go to this room with baby chickens on the floor and kids in yellow rain-slickers and get an approximately 1 inch-by-3 inch chunk of skin removed by what looks like one of those old machines that made an imprint of your credit card number on receipts at Sears weilded by a big shirtless guy with a black hood. Then that rectangle of flesh is attached to the next person's, and that to the next person's, and so on up to 200 hundred times. That flesh is then wrapped up into a bloody cinnamon-roll-shape and put into a white bowling ball bag which moves by itself to the mass-suicide scene. I'm not making this up. The movie presents all this as reality. Then the police find it and realize that all the suiciders had the rectangle cut out of their skin. This knowledge, gained at the beginning of the movie, doesn't help them solve or stop anything. Which brings us to...

The overworked, undersmart Police: Since Japan has no standing army, it's police force has to do everything. Maybe that's why only 6 cops are ever assigned to investigate the literally hundreds of suicides that happen over the course of the movie. What if one of them was actually a homicide? Somebody gets to O.J., I guess. And then the 6 cops do things that should take much more manpower, like try to watch an entire train platform for suicidal girls. And they succeed, but a bunch of people in the city still take their life, in a sequence that brings up the subject of:

Excessive/Silly Death and Gore: In the movie's best scene by far, teen schoolchildren are eating lunch on the roof of their school. It's right after the 54 schoolgirls die at the start of the movie, and in 5 minutes like 10 students have formed a "Suicide Club", and one girl stands on the edge of the school roof (are Japanese schools really this unsafe?) and says she's going to jump, and the other 9 join her on the edge, and we (the audience) know what's going to happen but can't believe it, and the tension builds. Then the 10 hold hands and count to three, and the camera goes to a POV shot looking out of some of the windows inside the school. We see some bodies fly past us, and then more buckets of blood wash up on the windows. We laugh because, I mean, it's ridiculous, this blood-splashing. The Japanese are made of not flesh and bones but blood and gasoline, apparently. Then we flash back to the roof, where 2 girls (including the one that first stood on the edge) and 1 boy are still standing there, totally in shock. It a really cool scene, artfully done, with building suspense. There's one problem, again -- the blood totally undercuts the mood of the scene. It's impossible not to laugh at it. I should not be laughing.
This type of thing is exactly what makes a movie bad -- it can't decide whether it's a grim horror movie or a fun gore-fest. It goes for both at once, and the two cannot coexist without destroying each other, so it fails.

Other overgory moments: The skin bag/roll I mentioned earlier...The scene right after the 6 cops prevent another train suicide where a woman cutting vegetables doesn't stop cutting when she gets to her hand, and slowly cuts her fingers off, blood squirting everwhere. Another woman puts her head in the oven and it immediately catches fire (more combustable heads)...One of the cops' kids covered in what looks like chocolate sauce when the cop gets home from work...A psycho dude stepping on animals trapped in linen sacks. There's more, but do I really need to go on?

All this begs the question, why do people like gore in movies? It's distracting, and often sick, but some can't get enough. People go to movies for the quality and quantity of gore. There are even gore mags like FanGORia, that have articles on how gore is made. It's like gore=action. And we know that's not true -- just look at the 2000 presidential campaign. Ha Ha. With all this mention of gore, I couldn't resist. Every time I see that word, I want to make a joke. Anyway, gore sucks.

Give me Reservoir Dogs, which has buckets of blood but cuts away as Mr. Blonde cuts the dude's ear off. I don't need to see that. Showing it takes the humanity out of it somehow. It automatically becomes sensationalized. Ok, I'm just thinking out loud here. Next element:

The Suicide Club: There is a pointless point in the movie where a throwaway character named "The Bat" and her even more throwaway friend (who has no lines, but exists solely for the emotion her death will provide -- the very definition of throwaway) get kidnapped by a group calling themselves "The Suicide Club." Their hideout is a bowling alley, and what happens there is not only the sickest part of the movie, it's also completely unnecessary to the overall story. This storyline all happens in 20 movie minutes in the film's latter half. The Bat gets kidnapped, the Suicide Club play a song (like the movie wasn't already muddled enough -- now it's a flipping musical?!) about suicide while a girl trapped in a linen sack is raped and murdered, then the Bat wakes up next to her dead pointless friend, then the Bat escapes and e-mails the police, then the police come and arrest the Red Herring Club, er, I mean, the Suicide Club, and the head of that Club inexplicably gets a minute of camera time on TV (shouldn't that TV station be playing Dessrat?) as he's arrested, and he sings a Dessertt song and that's the last we hear from him. They should have spent less time with this garbage and more time on the...

Bunny Kid: There is a kid with a bunny. We know he has a bunny because they always show the bunny when they show the kid, and the kid is always in sillouhette so we don't know what he looks like. But that's not important. What is important is he keeps calling the police and telling this one cop (we never know why he chose to fixate on this lone cop, as opposed to the others) about the suicides. And here's the important, stylistic touch the director has installed for the kid: after every sentence, he clears his throat. I don't know if it's meant to be spooky or what, but it happens every time. We're never given an explanation for it, either, like a cold or a bunny caught in the throat. It drags his scenes on, too. The kid already talks overslowly, adding the throat-clearing every five words slows the film to a crawl. They could've cut out 5 minutes of movie time if he would've just talked normal.

After the one cop's family kills itself, the cop gets a call from the Bunny Kid, and the kid plays off the cop's grief and taunts him. The conversation ends with Bunny Kid calling the cop "scum" for caring more about his family than other people. Seriously, Bunny Kid's all, "Scum! (cough) Scum! (cough). This convinces the cop to kill himself, too. It's the most ridiculous mid-movie kill-off of a main character since "Hardware". And any time your movie reminds people of both "Halloween 3" and "Hardware", something is terribly wrong. Terribly, horribly, splatteringly wrong.

Internet: The internet is all over this film: The Bat tells the police about a website consisting of only red and white dots, with each dot signifying a person who has committed suicide. And they are posted before news of the suicide hits the police. Now this never goes anywhere, narratively speaking. The cops don't use the provider information to find whoever's posting the dots. It seems to just be there to look cool. And it doesn't look cool, it just looks like an ad from Target.

There are other uses of the internet in the movie, but if the cops can't or won't find out who's posting the dots, what else matters? It's not like anybody uses the internet to solve the case. This movie sucks.

There are other elements too, like the constant main-character switching, not like in an ensemble cast but more like the director couldn't make up his mind about who to follow. And the ending, which is just a Desrot video, played completely straight (I guess it's supposed to be ironically scary, or something. Ironically, it's not). There's also the crap philosophy espoused by the Bunny Kid and the other Children of the Rain Slickers we meet very late in the film. It involves a lot of talk about connection -- connection with others and connection with self. It is implied that to connect with yourself you need to kill yourself. That's what Desarrt, Bunny Kid, and the rest seem to be saying.

And if you think that's deep, or even think it's worth a moment's more thought, you need to kill yourself.

I'm sorry this movie was made, and I'm sorry I watched it. I give it 1 and a half overpriced popcorns out of 5, because the gore and the overly weird imagery was really funny. It's not boring, that's for sure. There's always a psycho or an exploding head around the corner.

It's not higher than 1 and a half because it sucks. And blows.


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