Suicide Club holds a mirror up to the societies and cultures we live in and there’s no mirror blacker than Japanese horror director Sion Sono’s.
How Suicide Circle answers “Why do we watch horror movies?”
On one level, it’s a way to test our physical reactions in the hope of triggering a vicarious scare, while also questioning our limits for enduring extremes.
The opening of Sion Sono’s Suicide Club certainly does this, as 54 smiling school girls line up along the edge of a busy subway platform before flinging themselves under the wheels of an approaching train to be crushed into a tidal wave of blood and steaming body parts.
This is just the beginning of a spate of suicides sweeping through Tokyo as people begin to calmly off themselves in unprecedented numbers.
At first it’s suggested to be a fad spreading through impressionable, mobile phone fixated teens. The police become involved when holdalls full of stitched together patches of skin, shorn from the bodies of the suicides, keep turning up.
As nurses fling themselves from windows and boyfriends apologetically plummet off buildings, Suicide Club demonstrates another reason to watch horror movies. They hold a mirror up to the societies and cultures we live in and there’s no mirror blacker than Sion Sono’s. When it comes to thinking man’s insanity, Sono is the third corner of an Eastern triangle alongside the equally barking Takashi Miike and Shinya Tsukamoto.
Here Sono sets his low-brow plate far from his high-brow plate but doesn’t break a sweat running between the two to keep them spinning. So for every head in the oven there’s a wry observation on the influence of the internet, for every glib stabbing in the neck there’s the insidious permeation of J-Pop and for every grinning housewife hacking into her hands as she chops vegetables, there’s a weird coughing child forcing a policeman to question his very need to exist.
Nothing in Suicide Circle is straightforward and the story makes you work hard to understand it. Red herrings crop up, such as the Eddie Izzard look-a-like who stamps on dogs as he sings ‘The Dead Shine At Night’, but as well as being plot dead-ends, they present themselves as puzzle pieces in Sono’s oblique statement. The heavy thinking required limbers the brain so when the child asks the policeman, “Are you connected to yourself?” you can’t avoid turning the question around to yourself.
Ultimately this is why we watch the best horror films, the ones that question who we are, what we are and why we are. To move from the Grand Guignol excess that opens the film to such deep profundity is a masterstroke and it’s what makes Suicide Club a very special movie. In the 17th century, Rene Descartes shut himself in an oven, in order to come up with the world famous tautology “I think therefore I am”. We have it way easier nowadays, we just have to watch more horror movies.
For more spine-chilling thrills to watch over Halloween, check out our complete 31 days of horror movies list.