Reviewed by Evil Andy
Starring Chiaki Kuriyama, Ren Osugi, Megumi Sato, Tsugumi
Directed by Sion Sono
The very name of Sion Sono’s latest film Exte: Hair Extensions gives us a clue as to his motivations. Hair, long, straight, black, often wet, and always hanging in the face; hair has become the single most recognizable facet of the J-horror trend. Sono’s title tells us that he is going to extend the concept of the J-hair movie to the breaking point, daring us to find the idea of killer hair extensions frightening, and perhaps flexing and extending his directorial abilities, by delivering moments of genuine unease in what is otherwise a hilarious celluloid ridiculing of mainstream Japanese horror.
Exte: Hair Extensions begins with the grizzly discovery of a murdered girl in a shipping crate filled with hair. In what appears to be the work of organ harvesting criminals, she’s been slit up the middle and her gutted torso filled with hair. Why hair? Apparently Hello Kitty, glitzy cellphones, and schoolgirl uniforms are passé and hair extensions are all the rage now. The rabid adoption of the latest trends in Japan demands mountains of hair to feed the demand. While her organs supply the black market, her shipping crate coffin provides fashionable whisps to vainglorious youth.
Lucky for local coroner, and part-time hair aficionado (!), Gunji Yamazaki (Ren Osugi, veteran of many Takashi Miike films), since the delivery of the dead girl’s corpse to his autopsy room has just guaranteed him a non-stop supply of long lustrous locks. We all know that hair continues to grow after you die, but the murdered girl is a virtual fountain of fur. She spouts thick thatches from every orifice, including those surgical gashes, from which her organs were harvested. We don’t know why Yamazaki likes hair so much, though it’s clear it’s not a healthy obsession, and probably has something to do with his mother. Either way, rather than merely chopping off her hair to feed his hair extension side business like he usually does,(!) Yamazaki steals her entire corpse to secure himself a never ending supply of the shiny black stuff.
Meanwhile, across town fellow hair lover and salon apprentice Yuko Mizushima (Battle Royale’s Chiaki Kuriyama) has been unceremoniously been made babysitter to her niece Mami (Miku Sato). Yuko wants nothing more than to one day become a stylist, able to transform the beauty of her clients using only her scissors. Her selfish older sister Kiyomi (Tsugumi) prefers to party and abuse her daughter, which prompts Yuko to unofficially adopt Mami, complicating her hairdresser ambitions. Someone needs to analyze the common thread of disaffected, often abused youth and the different ways in which they escape their circumstances in Sono’s filmography (uh, but not me…)
Eventually the worlds of Yamazaki and Yuko meet when Yuko’s salon buys a bunch of Yamazaki’s highest quality hair extensions. The hair extensions are grafted onto the heads of unsuspecting victims, who then later experience some nasty bouts of unwanted hair growth. If you’ve ever found a weird hair in an even weirder place and been grossed out, then prepare to be repulsed. Sono has imagined hair spurting pores on and around eyeballs, under fingernails, on foreheads and on tongues. There isn’t a lot of what could be considered real horror in Exte, but the hair effects are some of the most enjoyable gore-less grossouts I’ve seen in some time.
Despite the fact that Exte is about the ghost of an organ harvested girl that spews killer hair, with a final showdown over an abused child, between a hair obsessed pervert, and a hairdresser in training, this is still Sono’s most commercial film to date. Like Miike did in One Missed Call, Sono presents all of the usual J-horror tropes but subverts them to his own purpose. Here the purpose seems to be to thumb his nose at the J-horror trend. When asked at a recent post screening Q&A “What do you think about modern J-horror, and the American remakes?” He replied, “I don’t care.” Exte: Hair Extensions is to J-horror what The Misfits devil lock is to hairstyles; goofy, creepy, and punk as fuck.
4 out of 5
Discuss Exte: Hair Exentsions in our forums!