Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Frank Review of "Suicide Club" (2002)

The Short Version? Lots of Asians start killing themselves, and the police want to know why.
What Is It? Existential Horror Thriller
Who's In It? Japanese People, including that guy from "Audition"
Should I See It? Maybe.

Reaction to this movie seems to be polarize into two camps: those who think it sucks, and those who think the first camp is too stupid to "get" the film. I'd like to try to bridge those camps, by understanding the film, and yet deeming it underwhelming.

"Suicide Club" (or "Suicide Circle," in the original Japanese) is at its heart Chicken Soup for the J-Horror Soul. It takes a very simplistic, fortune cookie platitude and bundles it into an overly complicated, misleading narrative. The premise appears to be that a rash of mass suicides has struck Japan, beginning with 54 schoolgirls, and progressing to more general society. Initially, police investigators have no choice but to rule out homicide, even as a white duffel bag containing a chain of human flesh patches turns up at the scene. As more people are effected (or disaffected, as the case may be,) a conspiracy seems to materialize. Is this a Suicide Club, or murder?

To explain further, I have to veer deep into spoiler territory. People angered by the impact the twist endings of movies like "The Usual Suspects" have on the story that preceded it will be pulling their hair out here. After spending time trying to determine what is behind the Suicide Club, and being offered endless red herrings, the conclusion makes clear that the entire film is a metaphor. There is no Suicide Club-- just a variety of means by which people distract themselves from trouble in mind. Work, family, school, pop culture, sports, deviancy-- none of it means anything if you've lost touch with yourself. Construct a facade, and you'll just have to take a hammer to it every time its flimsy nature is exposed. You've got to learn to love yourself, you see. It's new age cheese offered to salve the wounds of the modern Japanese spirit.

Shame no such concession is given to those taking the narrative literally, who will find that the interest they had invested in a police procedural is dismissed without regard. The only resolution offered is existential, leaving not so much plot holes as gapes so massive it kills any enjoyment to be found at the surface level. Heart must be taken either in the psychobabble or the imagery, both so outlandish that they cannot really be taken seriously.

It seems to me those smart enough to draw the meaning out of this movie will be offended at its questionable construction and saccarin sentiment. Those who only follow it superfiscially will be lost, on both the literal and philosophical levels. "Suicide Club," may be worth your time visually, but it isn't really worth your consideration emotionally.

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