Suicide Club (2002)
By: Rip on July 13, 2010  | 
Eastern Eye | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Japanese DD 2.0 | 95 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Sion Sono
Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Masatoshi Nagase, Yoko Kamon, Kimiko Yo, Hideo Sako, Rolly
Screenplay: Sion Sono
Country: Japan
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Suicide Club is a controversial Japanese cult movie that I'd never seen, but had heard much about over time, so it was with great relish that I took the opportunity to review it right here at Digital Retribution. And it hasn't been an easy task, due mostly to the inexplicable nature of events that unfold during the course of the film. Naturally, the question is, was it worth the wait?

The film opens with quite a bang, as 54 schoolgirls line up on a Tokyo railway platform, join hands and, with big grins plastered across their faces to a chorus of "A one and a two and a three…", throw themselves in the path of an oncoming train. This highly disturbing scene is coupled with some very graphic gore, as the train, the platform and its passengers are showered with blood and body parts. All of this has taken place for seemingly no apparent reason at all. All across the country, more and more young people are spontaneously forming 'suicide clubs' and happily jumping to their deaths from buildings, as well as any other manner in which to gleefully take their own lives.

Enter the police, led by Inspector Kuroda (the wonderful Ryo Ishibashi from Audition), to investigate the strange and rapidly escalating deaths. Baffled as to whether the suicides are part of a bizarre new youth cult or some sort of veiled and murderous attempt by an outside source to brainwash teenagers in to taking their own lives, the police are further perplexed when they uncover a sportsbag containing chains of stitched-together human skin, which appear to belong to the various victims. To complicate matters even further, they are taunted by telephone calls from a mysterious female cyber jock, who calls herself 'The Bat', informing them of a website that appears to register the suicides before they actually occur. On top of all that, there are a further series of calls from what sounds like a child with an incessant cough who announces that "There is no suicide club…" And what exactly does Genesis, the glam-rock singer who proclaims himself the 'Charles Manson of the information age', have to do with it all? Or the manufactured adolescent pop group, Dessart, and their catchy songs with the dodgy lyrics? I'm saying no more, so you'll have to see the film and find out for yourself. However, whether you will find out or not is another matter altogether because there are more questions raised here than answers.

Director Sion Sono's film is a jet black satire on the power of popular culture and its insidious control over a country's mindset, especially that of its youth, who are ultimately the most impressionable. Several razor sharp points are made concerning the media and its almost diabolical manipulation of people. In Suicide Club, it's even more than diabolical. If all this sounds rather grim, there is still a nice streak of black humour running through the proceedings, which will take you off guard and have you laughing out loud. You'll certainly need it, as the film becomes more and more bizarre as it progresses. And that is exactly where some audiences may strike a problem. The first two acts are riveting and make for utterly absorbing viewing. But come the third, it takes a sharp turn and things get pretty weird. This may put those off who don't take to dangling threads and prefer a little bit of closure. Performances are all good, though as always, Ryo Ishibashi stands head and shoulders above everyone else. He has a soulful, sympathetic presence on screen, which is brought to great effect here, as he plays the embattled detective with a family that he fears may be affected by the bizarre events unfolding around him. The cinematography by Kazuto Soto should also be noted, with its other-wordly quality, as well as an often beautiful score by Tomoki Hasegawa. There's a recurring lilt in the main theme that really stays with you after the film is over.
Presented in 1:85 widescreen and enhanced for 16x9 screens, this Eastern Eye release is a step up from previous versions of this title, as we get an anamorphic print. Kudos to Madman there. That said, for some reason the picture is quite soft, though it is clear and mostly free of artifacts. It would seem this print softness stems from the source material, as the various other versions in alternate regions appear to be much the same. English subtitles in an easily readable yellow font are also provided.
As with other releases of this title in various regions, we only get a 2.0 channel Japanese stereo surround track. It's adequate, but nothing to write home about.
Extra Features
Only the film's trailer, but again, we appear not to be missing out on anything when compared to other regions. A few trailers for other great Eastern Eye titles are also included.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This gruesome, blackly comic satire on fads and commercialism should be lauded for its message and all its underlying themes. It's just a shame that the third act becomes a little unfocused and confusing, rounding off what is otherwise a very impressive work that should be seen by everyone. And that's younger folk included.

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