Those of our readers who are familiar with Japanese cinema should be no strangers to gory films from Japan. Suicide Club, which I am going to be reviewing here, is one such example. However, in contrast with recent popular gore-packed films such as The Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, which are all way over-the-top in their handling of violence and have premises that are unlikely to happen in the real world, the events in Suicide Club are more realistic and as a result, the impact is also a lot stronger. Viewers with weak stomachs are advised to stay away, as graphic cruelty towards humans and animals is found throughout the movie, and many of the images are confronting and even disturbing. Now with this warning out of the way, let me tell you what I think of the film.
A group of high school girls lock hands, and with smiles on their faces, they throw themselves in front of a moving train. The police become involved but while they are investigating the incident, the number of cases of apparent suicides continues to rise. Meanwhile, a mysterious website appears, which seems to be accurately predicting the number of suicide cases prior to them actually taking place, and this only adds to the confusion…
The film starts off in a strong and promising manner. The opening scenes of the train station suicides and the frenzy that follows are both powerful and intriguing. The audience’s attention is grabbed immediately and one cannot help but want to find out who those students were and why they carried out such an act. As the mystery unfolds, new questions continue to be raised, and many of them remain unanswered by the end of the film. Also, much of the film is abstract and hard to comprehend, and it often feels like just a collection of shocking images and events. Because of these issues, Suicide Club has failed to become the amazing film that it could have been given its compelling premise.
Having said that, the best parts of the film are brilliant. The opening scenes are an example of fine filmmaking, while my favourite scenes are those set in the old hospital, which are so incredibly creepy they made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The attempt at providing some thought-provoking commentary is also commendable. Many themes, such as the recurring one of connection with oneself in today’s society where people’s relationships with each other are becoming increasingly distant, are interesting but sadly underdeveloped. This is disappointing because those issues are universal and of relevance in all modern societies.
Despite its flaws, Suicide Club has many elements that make it a fascinating film. On the surface, it is just another example of gore-filled entertainment, but director Sion Sono has achieved more than that by making some sharp comments about youth, media and society. Overall, while Suicide Club is not a completely satisfying film, it is certainly unique and challenging enough to deserve its status as a ‘cult classic’.