Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gimme a Head With Hair (Extensions)

Ah, Sion Sono. Something tells me that your parents weren’t the peanut-butter-and-jelly-on-white-bread kind of folks, that your afterschool activities didn’t include soccer practice and that your family pet wasn’t a golden retriever.
No good sir, I think not. I think you were born of midichlorians, that your sustenance is silicone packets mixed with Crystal Lite, that you created a life-size replica of Guernica out of lunch meat in the 8th grade and that your best childhood friend was a half leprechaun, half unicorn that only emerged at full moons and taco day.

The point is, you’re an odd duck. An avant guarde duck who seems to refuse to allow any notion of normalcy to come near your camera. Suicide Club managed to unite ear scrapings, The Goblin King, and tween pop music. Its followup/prequel Noriko’s Dinner Table focused on people who got paid to act like people in your family. And Strange Circus spent a good part of its running time trapped inside a cello case.
Is it any wonder that Sion Sono is responsible for a movie about killer hair extensions?
Quick Plot: A trio of night watchmen at a storage facility discover one compartment busting with stinky and thick hair extensions. Oh, also, the corpse of a mysteriously slain female with (not surprisingly) Pantene caliber locks. At the morgue, the clearly not quite right Yamazaki is so impressed with her mane that he brings the whole package home.

Meanwhile, a cheerier than a cheerleader on crack hair stylist student named Yuko (Battle Royale’s marathon champ turned Kill Bill assassin Chiaki Kuriyama) bicycles her way to work, a place she might as well call heaven. Yuko, you see, reallllllllly loves the art of haircutting. Think back to how enthusiastic the killer of Chain Letter must have been about chains, because that’s about as excitable as scissors and the blue stuff make the bright-eyed Yuko.

But you know what she doesn’t love? Her deadbeat big sister, an awful awful woman who constantly dumps her bruised little daughter in Yuko’s apartment. It’s ultimately not a major problem, since Yuko slowly bonds with Mami (and yes, hearing every character yell “Mami!” at a 7-year-old is confusing and weird) though their connection and shared fabulous locks eventually draws the attention of Yamazaki.

Dressed in rainbow spotted overall shorts and jazz hand gloves, Yamazaki has only been growing weirder since, well, dragging a corpse home and settling her comfortably in a hammock. For whatever reason, her hair has still been growing...and growing...and growing out of her head, eyes, mouth, and open wounds. Naturally one capitalizes on such a feat of nature by selling extensions to the local salon, which just so happens to be the place of employment of Yuko.
If the next thing you expect to happen in such a film is that the women who wear the non-vegetarian extensions begin sprouting hair in their own open wounds in mass amounts, then congratulations! You have successfully predicted part of the plot trajectory for a Sion Sono film. As facetious as that may sound, it’s actually surprising to finally be able to do such a thing. Based on the other three films of his that I’ve watched, Exte feels positively normal. 

Yes, there are killer hair extensions. And a character that spends his days singing to and about them. And a death scene that makes me thirsty for a milkshake made by putting Mr. Potato Head and my Tourist Trap DVD inside a blender.


But aside from that, it’s kind of just a slightly odder than usual J-Horror with some black humor busting out of its bun. Certainly a well-done oddy, but not quite at the level of mind-blowing weirdness as Suicide Club.

High Points
The major spotlighted kill of the film is grandly over the top, with visual echoes to Uzumaki and a wonderful mix of humor and ouch
Low Points
As quirky as Exte is, there's something not all there about the whole package. It starts on such a light and chipper note, flirts with darkness, side-steps with wacko humor,then hits the hour and forty five mark where I realize that as much as killer hair is bizarre and the actors are charming, I'm really, really quite ready for it to end.

Lessons Learned
Whenever possible, use hand symbols, since safety is first

A mother should never hit her little one
Instincts don’t solve cases
The Winning Line
“Sis, are you going to be afraid of hair from now on?”

When it comes to hair horror, alls I know of is the Stacey Keach segment in John Carpenter’s Body Bags and now, Exte. Already on that front, you have a recommendation.

And hey, while not perfect nor as interesting as Sono’s more serious work, Exte is sufficiently odd enough to warrant a rental. The DVD is bare bones, as is way too sadly and too often the case. Because really, if there’s one conversation I’d like to hear, it’s Sion Sono explaining what inspired him to make a movie about killer hair.


  1. The thought of air growing on eyeballs makes me puke in my mouth a little.

  2. Yeah, when you really think about it, it's incredibly incredibly gross and really nasty.

  3. A movie about Stacey Keach and killer hair? Sounds like fun!

    Speaking of J-Hair Horror, ever seen any of the Tomie films? Now those movies are...something.

  4. Check out Body Bags! It also has acting by John Carpenter and Mark Hammill having sex with Twiggy!

    I've never HEARD of this Tomie series, but reading up on it now and my interest is piqued. May need to investigate...

  5. Body bags gets a big thumbs up here also.

  6. I haven't watched it since it debuted on Showtime, but if memory serves, it's a pretty fun anthology. The third segment (Luke shags Twiggy) is directed by Tobe Hooper!

  7. I watched it fairly recently, its still quite fun and carpenters gas station segment is actually fairly scary in parts. Stacey Keach is hilarious in his segment also.

  8. I have vague memories of the first segment, though the killer hair of the second sticks out far more because, you know, killer hair...

  9. ..agreed killer hair is an extremely tiny sub-genre.

    what do you say if your confronted by killer hair btw..

    "Sorry i'll get out of your hair.."
    "Well, we could stand here and split hairs all day but i've got work to do so i'll see you later.."

  10. Hm...

    "I'm just tied up in knots about what to do here..."

    "You're a little too out of control right now..."

    "I'll give YOU the proper treatment..."

    and when all else fails, just break out the electric razor.