By Brett Mullins
Original Title: Jisatsu Sākuru (Suicide Club)
Suicide Club is an atypical Japanese horror film in so far that it is engaging, disturbing, and thought provoking, as opposed to the standard chills and thrills of the genre.
The film opens as fifty-four girls stand on the edge of a platform at a train station, grasp each others hands, and jump into the path of an oncoming train. The case is soon investigated by a team of detectives, headed by Kuroda (Ryô Ishibashi). As they search for a link to the motive of the girls, they discover a white bag containing a roll of human skin stitched together. A similar bag was discovered at a hospital where another suicide occurs. Two days later, in mockery of the mass suicide of school girls at the train station, several students stand on the roof’s edge at their school, lock hands, and imitate the jump; however, the majority of the group follows through, while the remaining students choose to jump to their death, seconds afterword, out of guilt. The next day, the drastic increase spreads throughout Japan leading many to question the existence of some sort of ‘suicide club.’ Kuroda and his fellow officers attempt to understand the meaning behind this as more and more Japanese youth parish.
Suicide Club, or Suicide Circle, as it was known in Japan, is astonishingly dense; so dense that volumes could be written concerning its philosophy. Many mistakenly interpret this film as a commentary on the high number of suicides in modern day Japan. While this is part of its ideology, suicide is one response to the problem of a disconnected youth. This disconnect is the result of the influx of Western influence on Eastern culture and the resulting reliance on technology as a substitute for human interaction.
Throughout the film, the imagery and symbolism depicted are indicative of this idea. The most prevalent of which is the scene on top of the school where one person leads several others to the ledge of the building. This scene illustrates Western influence through ‘peer pressure,’ which is not common to traditional Eastern culture. Some of the teenagers jump with the rest following slowly behind. The final one to jump was even urged not to by concerned classmates who rushed to the building’s top once the first wave hit the ground. (For a more in depth analysis of the imagery and interpretations, visit this article on ‘Nothing Ventured...’)
In addition of the density of the story, the roles were cast beautifully with Ryô Ishibashi (Audition) portraying Detective Kuroda in a wonderfully emotional performance. Mitsuko, a woman the detectives meet after her boyfriend falls victim to the suicides, is played by Sayako Hagiwara, who also delivers a powerful performance.
This film makes its departure from the traditions of the horror genre within the first scene. Instead of some scary suspenseful ‘introduction-to-the-antagonist’ scene, the occupants of a crowded subway are sprayed with the blood of several school girls. As the train passes, one girl’s leg even crashes through the window terrifying the passengers. Any film that can contain scenes of thought provoking material, penetrated by effective moments of gore, and is able to retain a sense of continuity, is one which will stay with the audience for quite some time.