Exte: Hair Extensions (Ekusute) — movie review
Posted on May 22, 2008 by Chris Nelson
This film will be screening at SF Indie’s Another Hole in the Head 2008, June 5, 10, and 14. Click here for showtimes.
Sion Sono’s latest picture has been covered on so many other sites that I’m afraid this review might be a bit superfluous. As such, I’ll try to make this fairly short and informal. Given the responses on those other sites, you’d think that Exte: Hair Extensions would be the best Sion Sono movie to date. Sadly, at least for myself, I’m afraid the opposite is true.
It’s no secret the Japanese horror film has found itself in something of a rut. I mean, when even NPR has caught onto the fad, having a special show regarding “dead wet girl” horror, you know things have become a bit too obvious. But what most people don’t seem to realize is that the long haired, herky-jerky female ghost had its roots set way back in the days of Kabuki theater, the actors utilizing such characteristics to depict a wholly menacing specter. Aside from a historical cultural there’s little rhyme or reason for the contemporary ghost to have such fright-inducing locks…that is, until Sion Sono’s Exte: Hair Extensions.
As its title would suggest, this time around it’s the hair itself that causes the ultimate pain, black market hair extensions that continue to grow, and even attack their wearers — think “dead wet girl” meets Bride with White Hair 2 (it’s more the horror film than part 1). But unlike that seminal Hong Kong action/horror picture, the deadly strands of hair do more than slice and dice their victims. They grow in strange places (ie: the tongue, on the inside the eye-lids,etc.), creep across the room in pure Jans Svankmajer style, provide wearers with momentary glimpses of prior foul play (the type which grudges are built upon), and even induce them to acts of violence. It’s fresh, fun, shocking, and downright amazing.
I know what you’re thinking. “This sounds great. So what exactly didn’t you like?” I’m getting to that.
Much debate has been made over the film’s tone, in particular, whether the film is a genuine horror film or a black comedy. The film is both of these, but neither exclusively. In fact, the picture is also a bit of a detective tale, a serial killer thriller, a drama about a broken family dynamics, a meditation on the malleability of modern identity (or lack thereof), a Japanese homage to French New Wave — perfectly in line with Sion Sono’s other works. Only, this go round these disparate elements seem culled from those pictures’ cutting room floors. In these bits an audience familiar with Sono’s works
In the end, I’m afraid the internet hype around Exte is another case of “me-too” critical lauding following an avant-garde artist toning down the intensity of their work, both in terms of introspection and experimentation. And, as with most of these inferior entries, this latest entry leaves no possibility of misunderstanding, or even simple interpretation. While Exte: Hair Extensions definitely had its entertaining moments, it’s lack of the usual Sono-brand cerebral content ultimately left me disappointed and unsatisfied. Still, for those of you seeking northing more than a decent set of horror-show thrills and quality laughs, you probably need look no further. I just hope Sono’s next film is stronger throughout.
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