Director – Shion Sono
Cast – Chiaki Kuriyama, Megumi Satô, Tsugumi, Eri Machimoto, Miku Satô, Yûna Natsuo, Ken Mitsuishi, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Tetsushi Tanaka
Release Year – 2007
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember coming across word of this piece on UpcomingHorrorMovies years ago, and immediately thought to myself, “with a story like this, it is either going be really stupid, or really awesome”, and for the most part it was the latter. From the mind behind the famed Suicide Club, Exte: Hair Extensions is a cool and unique horror film that gives us an antagonist never before used in the genre, and thanks to good direction also provides positive horror that I expected but was still surprised to see.
A mortician exploits a female victim of human trafficking to produce natural hair to be sold as hair extensions. These extensions are more than natural though, they are deadly to those who wear them.
Japan has always had a knack for giving us pretty zany storylines, and one involving killer hair extensions came unsurprising to me. What DID surprise me though was how serious of a film this was, and not a psychotic effort like Tokyo Gore Police or Attack Girls Swim Team vs The Undead, both films with equally crazy plots.
Shion Sono’s storyline is quite simple on the surface, but comes with many unique qualities that set this apart from the usual mindless stories that come with films like this. There is plenty of character development following our main protagonists, and a fair amount of mystery regarding the source of the deadly hair extensions produced en masse by the psychotic man selling them to unsuspecting women seeking satisfaction in Japan’s ever-constant world of aesthetically pleasing elements. I loved how he used a tormented girl (of mysterious origin) to produce the large locks of hair, and while she played a low-key role she came with much creepiness and eventually played a slightly heavier role as the film went on. The kills written into the film were great and took much time in their deliverance, making for some very enjoyable kill sequences that took their sweet time in delivering some gory and “hairy” goodness.
Sono’s direction is what really sells this piece, because honestly how could killer hair extensions provide for a good horror experience without damn good direction? There was much room for this film to fail due to its plot, but Sono expertly gave this piece to us with plenty of the goods that we horror fans love to see. The atmosphere is great and he gets positive performances from all involved, especially from our lead actress Chiaki Kuriyama(Battle Royale, Kill Bill Vol. 1) who I know all of us horror fans (mainly dudes) enjoy seeing on screen due to the usual badass roles she plays – and while her role in this film is much more passive than her usual roles, she still delivers and enjoyable performance. Aside from all of this, you are probably wondering how well the horror is, right? Well Sono’s direction of the horror is the most absolute reason behind my enjoyment of this piece. The first half of the film was heavy in development and didn’t include much horror, which lead me to think that maybe this flick was going to bomb and not reach potential, but sure enough once the horror really kicked in during the second half I was sold on this one due to how damn awesome it was. We get a fair mix of live-action FX and CGI, which I was not surprised at nor did I balk over given this is killer hair we are talking about here. It was awesome watching the hair grow and literally consume the host wearing the extensions, who was then butchered in awesome fashion thanks to full-frontal direction from his very efficient horror director.
Overall, Exte: Hair Extensions is a cool Japanese horror film that gives us an unusual antagonist, hair extensions, to deliver some pretty good horror with creepy results. While this sounds like the usual cheesy Japanese horror, this effort takes itself very seriously and gives us one of the more unique horror efforts of last decade, and a good one at that.