With the opening line “My nose hair is out of control” you just know that this is aiming for comedy and it succeeds thanks to a crazy performance from Ren Osugi.
When a shipping container full of human hair is opened a young woman’s body is discovered. Police are baffled by the case creepy but hair fetishist Gunji Yamazaki (Ren Osugi) sees it as a golden opportunity to steal the corpse and harvest hair. When examining the corpse he is delighted to discover that the hair grows in endless amounts and decides to use it to create hair extensions to sell to salons. Bad news emerges when he discovers that the hair is exacting the dead girl’s vengeance on anyone who comes into contact with it. Meanwhile apprentice hair-dresser Yuko Mizushima (Chiaki Kuriyama) is trying to earn a promotion at her salon but her personal life intrudes when her niece Mami (Miku Sato) is dumped on her doorstep by her abusive mother. Little does Yuko realise that Mami will be the least of her problems because Gunji will visit her salon with demon hair.
I’m tempted to call this post-modern horror comedy. Although Sion Sono plays the horror straight there is a feeling of knowingness to the proceedings which highlights the artificiality and lets you know that the writer and director are playing with the genre. It is in the way characters use over-explicit and descriptive dialogue to introduce characters and say that they are doing so out loud, the way the (awful) music and (clichéd) sound effects are inspired by other films like One Missed Call, the way that the bad characters are melodramatically bad and the way that characters are so superficial and can smile after a hilarious climax which should see them hate hair. The salon workers even work in a place bearing the name Gilles de Rais, Jean of Arc’s compatriot and the notorious child killer. All of this is amusing and it is anchored by three strong performances.
After a disappointing performance in Shikoku Chiaki Kuriyama is allowed to flex her acting muscles in this film and she is great to watch. She can do anger and horror and sympathy but she is well aware of the comic nature of the film and her early scenes where she narrates her daily life is well handled with sly looks.
Another great performance comes from Miku Sato. Abused kids are almost rote in these types of films but Miku Sato’s portrayal of Mami cut such a sad figure in the way she would flinch from people and is always on the verge of tears if she does the slightest thing wrong. It was a believable performance and I felt sympathy for her
Veteran actor Ren Osugi (Cure, Uzumaki, Nightmare Detective) steals the show by unleashing his inner weirdo. It is as if Sono, Adachi and Osugi sat down for a brainstorming session over how to transform a generic J-horror into an entertaining film and crafted the bizarre moments that Gunji creates. Witnessing him wear different wigs of long flowing hair, wear ridiculous clothes and ride around on a tricycle was priceless. Sono knows that this is the strongest part of the film and inserts a brilliant pop music montage with Osugi singing “hair, hair, my hair.”
It’s not all comedy though and the horror is pretty effective. As with any sort of body horror seeing a human body being twisted and altered in different ways is very creepy and the hair in this film is terrifying. There are many unnerving CGI sights like seeing someone pull hair from their pupils and tongues and there are brilliant sequences where the hair erupts into a frenzy, flicking around like the monsters tentacles from John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The whole concept of demonic hair extensions might sounds ridiculous but that is the point since the film aims to mock the J-horror genre. There are lines littered throughout the film and the characters play their roles with some knowingness over the material and it is amusing but the main draw is Ren Osugi’s bizarre performance. The moments of downtime between his appearances can drag but when he is on screen it is hilarious.
Release Date: 17th February 2007 (Japan)
Running Time: 108 mins.
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono, Masaki Adachi
Starring: Chiaki Kuriyama, Ren Osugi, Eri Machimoto, Megumi Sato, Tsugumi, Miku Sato, Mirai Yamamoto, Ken Mitsuishi, Hiroshi Yamamoto