The Suicide Club (2002) is a Japanese horror thriller that begins with a real shocker. The opening scene is of fifty high school girls chatting away casually while waiting for the subway. As if responding to some Pavlovian bell, they suddenly step to the edge of the platform, join hands, and cheer in unison, "One,.. and a Two,.. and a Three!", before jumping into the path of an oncoming subway car, splattering the horrified pedestrians with gore.
A team is assigned the case, lead by veteran family man Detective Kuroda (Ryo Ishbashi- (Audition) and the younger, less iron-skinned Detective Shibu. More deaths follow and sports duffel bags filled with squares of human skin that are sewn together and rolled into a circle are found at the scenes. The police precinct also receives phone calls from two mysterious sources, one seemingly the voice of a coughing child, the second from a computer hacker known as "The Bat", who directs them to a website of red and white dots, the dots representing suicides and the ones to come.
In somewhat similar fashion, Suicide Club initially looks like it may be a twisted genre look inside the Japanese psyche the way Battle Royale did. Battle Royale used teens as its cast and made a nice case about their need to succeed at an early age, hinge the rest of their life on those years. However, Suicide Club is a film that goes good for about an hour or so of its running time and then just falls apart.
Initially there seems to be a nice set up- the standard Japanese weirdo horror/mystery/investigation flick, like Angel Dust, Another Heaven, or The Ring, with perhaps a nice little metaphorical message about Japanese culture. A scene on a school rooftop where students are discussing the subway incident, joking around about a "suicide club", suddenly takes a unnerving turn. It suggests something about the teen mentality of follow the leader, follow the trend, and takes it to the edge. And there I was, thinking this was a neat little offbeat horror thriller with some nice message behind it. Like Sam Fuller, a cult film with a point.
But, as the film settles into its final half hour, you soon realize that the story was not as focused as you thought. Loose ends abound. Characters behave stupidly. And its all under the umbrella of weirdness for weirdness sake. The story shifts between three characters- the detectives, a girl whose boyfriend committed suicide and uncovers the suicide deaths connection to a popular teen act, and The Bat, who is kidnaped by a Ziggy Stardust wannabe androgynous rocker named Genesis and his cronies, who hang out in a bowling alley with people and animals stuffed in white bags that they stomp over. When the heavily bedazzled Genesis launches into a musical number singing lyrics like "...An unfamiliar yellow dog keeps grinning as tears us from the ones we love... Because the dead shine all night long...." you realize its only going to go downhill from there.
The DVD: TLA... Uncut. Unrated version
Picture: Non-anamorphic widescreen. Pretty poor picture quality. It looks like a cheapie import disc, the kind all-region savvy movie buffs buy for $5. The image is compressed and overall is awash in muck making it muddy and unclear. The darker scenes (which are often) suffer because of dull contrast. Colors and sharpness are also not very strong. The hues have a moldy green, sickly pallor.
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Japanese language with default English subtitles. Sound is pretty basic. Dialogue is presented clearly with the fx and music having a decent bass range. The subs have a few minor errors but, unless you are an English professor, not to the extent that it is often or glaring enough to remove you from the film.
Extras: Chapter selections–- TLA release trailers, including Suicide Club
Conclusion: This film had so much potential that is wasted away and vanished with its third act. I cannot think of a film I've seen recently that was so neat and interesting and engagingly odd that then crumbles. The DVD isn't much to write home about- lackluster picture, barebones, basic sound. The film is interesting enough when it works and does provide some good blindsiding shocks, but the ending combined with the transfer quality make it only rental-worthy