Friday, December 20, 2013

Movie Review: Hair Extensions (Ekusute) - 2007

Believe it or not, this is a rock-solid horror movie about hair extensions!

IMDB"Let's make a horror movie about hair extensions attacking people!" sounds like an idea for a Halloween episode of "The Simpsons". But astonishingly, it lead to a gem of Japanese horror. "Hair Extensions" aka "Ekuste" aka "Exte" is horrifying, funny, touching, and highly entertaining.

The movie wastes no time. At the beginning, we're introduced to Yuko, who wants to become a stylist and who is living with Yuki, who wants to be a dancer. The introduction is established within perhaps 20 seconds since the young women address another by name and profession as if they were reciting their character descriptions from the script. This self-awareness of the movie gives it a satirical touch that seems very suitable. After all,  "Hair Extension" can be seen as a reflection on the obsession of Japanese horror movies with hair. Take "Ju-on", for example, where you have black hair growing from everywhere all the time. Or Sadako from "Ringu", whose style of wearing her long black hair over her face has become a trademark of J-horror.

Now, Yuko (played by Chiaki Kuriyama of "Kill Bill" fame) has an abusive bitch of a sister who dumps her little daughter, Mami, at Yuko. It's heartbreaking to see how this nice girl gets physically and verbally abused by her loathsome mother. All the more you have to love Yuko for trying to protect Mami even though she's already occupied with the work at the hair salon. This social drama aspect provides the movie with unexpected gravity. Still, it's a horror movie, and the horror comes early in shape of the corpse of a girl found in a container full of hair. Yamazaki, a freak with a hair fetish, steals the corpse and brings it home. To his amazement, the corpse is still growing hair, and he thinks it's a good idea to sell it as extensions.

Even though Yamazaki is only a supporting character, he is quite complex. He's a trickster figure at the heart of the story, mediating between the supernatural and mundane world, and he's defining the bizarre tone of the movie. It didn't surprise me to learn from the DVD extras that director Shion Sono and Ren Osugi, who plays Yamazaki, invested a lot of work in the development of the character.

Despite the comedy and drama in "Hair Extensions", it is certainly not for the squeamish. The superb special effects are quite grizzly. Overall, I found this gem of Japanese horror strangeness to be virtually flawless.

Rating: 10 out of 10 deadly hair styles.