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Japanese Horror Movie by Sion Sono

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Sion Sono's Gory, Bizarre, Scathing Indictment of Japanese Pop Culture

  • Sep 1, 2009

SUICIDE CLUB (aka. Suicide Circle, Jijatsu Saakuru, 2001) is a bleak and dark satire that effectively masquerades as a horror film. Directed by Sion Sono (Strange Circus), this film is a shocking commentary on the effect of pop culture on a country's young population (and in general). Sion Sono is at his top form here, it has been said that the director decided to make this film after the true-to-life suicide of a close friend. With its shocking and disturbing imagery, it somewhat threatens to obscure the effective message that concerns the media manipulation of the population's moral system. Having the similar themes of sadness, desperation and frustration similar to films like "Battle Royale" or others by Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the film is one effective blend of gore, horror, dark comedy and a social commentary.

54 Japanese schoolgirls seemingly await to board a subway train. They hold hands and in unison, all 54 girls jump off the platform in front of an oncoming train with a smile on their faces. The resulting blood-splattering event may push even the most reasonable man to be driven insane (a horror fan will take notice). A bag is left on the scene, with a roll of patches of human skin, stitched together. Soon after, unexplained suicides are occurring all over Tokyo, more bags with stitched up human skin are found, and the authorities appear helpless to do a thing given the nature of the deaths, opening a murder case is a challenge by itself. Questions and more deaths arise, What is the purpose of the bag with stitched up skin? What does a supposedly innocent band and a website have to do with the suicides? The country is on the verge of social anarchy as the police turn to a cyber jockey called "The Bat" to shed some light on the mystery. 



After the bizarre, gruesomely, bloody introduction, Sion Sono gets down to business in presenting a truly baffling comic film that is set to boggle your senses. It is part detective story, part social critique, part satiric drama and all compelling storytelling. Those familiar with Japanese existential themes will no doubt be at home Sion Sono's impressive and disturbing "Lynchian-like" mind-bending satire. The director tackles the effect of popular culture head-on with a truly bleak vision as to how the media can affect how people dress, what to think and exactly what to watch on television. So why not have the media portray suicide as the "in" thing to do? So it is far-fetched, and quite an unlikely scenario; but one thing that cannot be denied is that "Suicide Club" certainly gets its point across. Sono seems to be saying that people has to learn to think for themselves, do what you believe is best and to not allow what TV and magazines decide what's "cool to do" and what's "hip" at the time. While the film has a very valid advice, it executes the message in a truly surrealistic manner, that it almost seems to unfold in a parallel reality where the bizarre and the macabre are not just a way to present the gory events but serves as a social commentary. As soon as you think that the film is about to provide its explanations, the rug gets tugged from under you.

Numerous explanations for the suicides are suggested in the film; subliminal messages, a cross dressing Marilyn Manson wannabe, a curious website, they may all be the causes of the deaths but it never gives a clear explanation as to why. It borrows some elements we may have seen once before, but it still couldn't be denied that the film presents a very odd way of getting its message across. It is this lack of explanations that will definitely attract fans of Lynch-like films and the imagery will attract the fans of Takashi Miike's unorthodox style of execution. However, while this may be the film's greatest asset, it may also prove to be its greatest weakness. The lack of solid explanations will undoubtedly alienate and frustrate a lot of viewers looking for solid conclusions. No easy answers are presented, but keep in mind that the film also has a METAPHORICAL style, the effects of the media in America are quite powerful but not as intensely felt as in Japan. 


With all this mayhem and disorder, a sympathetic and likeable detective named Kuroda is played by Ryo Ishibashi and his investigations is the film‘s focus. Detective Kuroda is a very fortunate man with a beautiful wife and two wonderful children. However, the things that are unfolding may serve to destroy all he has in a very horrifying way. The film's cinematography definitely gives the proceedings a surrealistic and eerie approach that presents the gore in a partly distorted fashion. The overdose of blood and gore can be quite depressing to watch, after a few minutes, you may feel like you have to pause and watch something else. I experienced this same feeling when I watched Sion Sono's "Strange Circus" (the 2nd film I saw directed by Sono), I'm not exactly sure why I'm repulsed but at the same time drawn to this director's work.

While "Suicide Club" may not be a perfect film, horror fans will be drawn to its bleak and bloody premise. It is clever and insightful on what it is trying to tell the audience. The film is not for the squeamish, and a strong stomach is definitely required. The film is very graphic that makes it unsuitable for young teens which is such a shame, since the film does encourage young people to think for themselves, be independent rather than to just follow a crowd; youngsters are the most vulnerable to commercialism. But with the film's bloody and graphic sequences, it would be ill-advised for young teens to watch it. It also loses some of its edge as a scorching commentary of Japan’s tedious pop-culture driven society because Sono relies on some dark satiric elements; this movie would have been awesome if it became more resounding. 


            suicide club
The film’s climax will no doubt leave a lot of viewers scratching their heads, that will inevitably frustrate the casual watcher. Despite its lack of answers and its ability to aggravate some viewers, “Suicide Club” will definitely hook fans of challenging cinema. It is extremely original and manages to generate a strong feeling of dread. It does give that uneasy feeling when you just don’t know what to expect and Ryo Ishibashi is great as our main protagonist and gives the viewer someone to root for in this dark journey.

This movie will alienate/frustrate/confuse a lot of viewers but as for what the film intended to say and do, it is worth a watch. The way it executes its commentary is able to make the senses run wild. "Suicide Club" is Sono's cry to move away from the brink of social collapse and a subtle commentary on the spiritual death of a society embodied by suicidal behavior. Quite ironic that youngsters are the ones to serve as martyrs as well as the adult's tormentors. “Suicide Club“ just says: Too much J-Pop may be as dangerous as a gun to your head.

Recommended Timidly because of its disturbing nature [4+ Stars]

Dvd cover scene tattoo scene

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October 17, 2010
Yeah man I have this one as well, I didn't even realize it reading the other, but once I saw that cover art, yep. In fact I think you are he one who recommended it to me, well done WP.
September 04, 2009
Whoa! You've just knocked my socks off yet again Woo! I don't think there is a single review out there which pales in comparison to your write-up. I can't even suggest a single thing to add here & I bow to you. Great review!!!
September 05, 2009
Thanks, bud. You know me, I love Asian cinema and Foreign cinema. Like you, I tend to lean towards depressing, real premises. It's just a pity that Sono, Yudai and Park make a lot less money than hacks like Michael Bay.
September 05, 2009
Hey, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I dig me some Foreign flicks when I'm not out thre looking for the most extreme piece of trash known to mankind. Heh. Guess we have to kicks some kind of way & this seems pretty harmless for the most part. Uggh, don't even get me started on Michael Bay. His movie making privildges should've been revoked many moons ago. ;-)~
September 05, 2009
I laughed so hard when a Lunch reviewer said that "Transformers 2" was a movie not for 'weenies'...too funny. I wonder how they'll react to a movie like "Strange Circus" and "The Girl Next Door"...
September 05, 2009
Uh, yeah. Ya think?? Heh. Or how about Martyrs? Cannibal Holocaust? The uncut version of Nick Palumbo's Murder-Set-Pieces? Or Nacho Cerda's Aftermath/Genesis? I daresay I'd love to hear their comments on any of the above mentioned. LMFAO
September 05, 2009
My friend's GF said that she loved horror and enjoyed disturbing movies. So I asked; what type of horror do you like? She said "Scream", "Haunting" and "House on Haunted Hill" remake. My friend had a grin and so I showed her "Martyrs" and "Inside". She usually looks happy when she watches horror but this time around, she was quiet and serious. LOL. After the watch, they said I was too much LOL! Aftermath/Genesis is awesome! seen "Philosophy of a Knife"?
September 08, 2009
Hmm, wow. People never fail to amaze me when they speak of disturbing cinema. I was hanging out with some friends several years back who thought the original Final Destination was the most disturbing, scary film they'd ever seen. Funny, eh? Nah, I hadn't seen Philosophy Of A Knife yet but have hears some amazing things about it so I'll prolly purchase this oen for myself. I just bought Devereaux's End Of The Line on labor day weekend so I will be checking that one out shortly.
September 10, 2009
cool! Can hardly wait!
September 02, 2009
I've been intrigued with the idea behind this film for a while, but I haven't seen it so I can't say as to whether or not I agree with your in-depth evaluation, though it's still a great review.
September 05, 2009
Thanks, Sean, You have got to give this type of movies a spin...especially "Strange Circus". You have an exceptional way with words. Then you may just be the "best dirtiest reviewer in Lunch".LOL!
September 08, 2009
Sadly, I'm just not that dirty. Sure I've got a dirty sense of humor, but I'm not really into sexploitation or porn or anything like that. Too exploitive and often the story's just an excuse for loads of sex. Now, if there were a real interesting story that would be another matter, but without one it's just silly. No, I'll let your title remain intact... at least until Mackshere returns in a new incarnation.
September 10, 2009
Well having a dirty sense of humor is a start. I don't like porn either but I admit to a certain extent that I would watch an exploitation flick just to see what the fuss is about. There are several good ones out there, ones that feature sex as an inherent part of the plot. "Strange Circus" is a freaking soul-scorcher. I even made Mackshere shed a tear for "Jan Dara"...yep, the review's here.
More SUICIDE CLUB a.k.a. "Suicide C... reviews
review by . April 18, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Well, only in Japan it seems can a director comfortably make star-studded features such as this. This rather remarkable career trajectory belongs to Sion Sono, whose Suicide Club stars high-profile actors Masatoshi Nagase (Stereo Future, Electric Dragon 80,000 V) and Ryo Ishibashi (Audition, Brother). Knowing this, it is no surprise that watching Suicide Club is a special experience indeed. What to think of an opening sequence in which 54 uniformed schoolgirls commit simultaneous suicide by jumping …
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Director: Sion Sono
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: November 2003
Runtime: 94 minutes
Studio: TLA Releasing
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