Tag

What do Battle Royale, Final Destination, Mulholland Drive, The Walking Dead, Existenz, Lost, 8&1/2, Forrest Gump, and Primer all have in common? On the surface, not a lot, but Sion Sono cares not for such concerns and instead finds his own connections in weaving this absurdist film about a person becoming unstuck in time and reality while being stalked by a powerful, murderous force. If you’re looking for a linear plot A to Plot B film, you’d be better placed heading out to the latest blockbuster but if you’re keen on something shape-shifting, ambiguous, and hypnotic you have come to the right place.

Sion Sono is no stranger to wiping out huge swathes of people. If you’ve seen Suicide Club you’ll know he’s a fan of sudden shocking moments, usually involvement mass death, and sometimes focusing on school girls. Tag starts out with a knowing homage to his previous work, as its already infamous opening scene sees two school buses filled with teenage girls sliced into pieces in an instant, leaving a single blood-soaked, bewildered survivor. That’s not a spoiler as it has made up various trailers over the past couple of years and has popped up on a variety of horror and extreme cinema sites, as well as happening in the opening minutes and being the catalyst for everything that follows. Our protagonist flees, running from what seems to be a sentient wind which cuts into any poor soul she begs for help. There’s nothing like killing around fifty people in the first six minutes of your movie to put a smile on my face.

From there it only gets more interesting, or weird, or off-putting depending on your preference. Describing in detail anything else that happens, plot-wise, would be bordering on spoiler territory and likely be futile. This is Sion Sono having fun; for his own pleasure, at our expense, at life in general, and finally because he’s good at it. It’s his art horror film – lots of stylized shots, close-ups of faces, floating feathers, leaves, panty shots, and a lot of running. Merged with these are frequent outbursts of action and violence which are often funny and can be shocking, even with the somewhat dodgy visual effects.

I don’t think there is any deeper meaning here beyond what one character says on our behalf – basically life is surreal and is often beyond our control, so just get on with it as best you can. It helps if you look good in a Wedding dress and if you imagine The Walking Dead theme tune accompanying your every move. Sono dabbles in issues like fate, AI, the passage of time, futility, mortality, so by all means you are free to read the film on any level you desire. In my mind, the broken mind of a tortured cynic, it’s all meaningless except for taking it at its most superficial level – as another entertaining film from the crazed brain of Sion Sono.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Tag!

Suicide Club

After I first got into J-Horror, and Asian Cinema in general, I began to compile lists of all the must see movies. Buying those lovely Tartan Asia Extreme DVDs by the basket load helped, as each came with a bunch of trailers for related films or ‘titles coming soon’. Suicide Club grabbed my eye fairly early on – how could it not, what with its amusingly macabre premise, trailer and synopsis? Who wouldn’t want to watch a film which opens with a bunch of school-girls throwing themselves under the wheels of a train? Idiots, that’s who!

The film uses shock value to get punters into seats and to appease the sort of weirdos like me who would choose to watch something like this, but shock value is not at the centre of the story. There’s a lot more to Suicide Club, but it struggles to fit in any niche. While the film does begin with some out of place music playing over the scenes of the train approaching, the girls holding hands, and the girls jumping, the hilarious blood effects are over the top enough to make you assume it’s some ridiculous comedy. Then it becomes a detective mystery. Then it becomes a horror. Then it becomes a satire before finally going completely off the rails (pardon the pun). It’s a film which I can only imagine doesn’t know what it wants to be, and none of the things it tries to be are pulled off very well. There is little weight put onto the subject of suicide, the satire directed at the subject of cults isn’t particularly pointed, and the mystery is so convoluted as to never be adequately understood. If anything it’s the early moments which work best – before you really know anything and your imagination is left to fill in the blanks. These take place in some sort of hospital where the tension is racked admirably high thanks to an open window, a couple of nurses, and a night watchman. It was in these moments that the slow pace and bizarre twists conspired to make me believe that a long-haired ghost was going to pop out.

Unfortunately these scenes soon give way as we meet the cops tasked with working out what the hell is going on and why all these people are killing themselves. What’s tying the victims together? Are they even victims in the first place? Who’s the creepy kid who keeps phoning the cops and offering philosophical vagueries? What’s with the sports bag left at the scenes of death? Is the pop group significant? Who is going to be next? You’ll be asking yourself these questions as much as the characters are – Sion Sono seems to finding his feet as a director as much as anything – playing with expectation but in the end abandoning a coherent story with involving characters for a spattering of themes and violence which only loosely ties together. The film will certainly stay with you, and may be more rewarding with a second viewing, but the director has since gone on to make vastly more essential films.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Suicide Club!