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  Exte: Hair Extensions Haired To DeathBuy this film here.
Year: 2007
Director: Sion Sono
Stars: Chiaki Kuriyama, Ren Osugi, Megumi Satô, Tsugumi, Eri Machimoto, Miku Satô, Yûna Natsuo, Ken Mitsuishi, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Tetsushi Tanaka, Hikari Mitsushima, Ayaka Onoue, Ryôsuke Nagata, Erika Mine, Mari Hayashida, Yôji Tanaka, Yûrei Yanagi
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: At the dockyard there's a strange odour emanating from one of the large containers delivered by the cargo ships, so the port security decide to open it up and see what's inside. The answer to that is hair, and lots of it, presumably intended for the hair extensions industry though that doesn't quite explain the smell; what does explain it is when the officials notice a dead body in amongst the mass, and the police are swiftly called. It turns out there are qute a few corpses in there, but one of the workers around the autopsy room takes an unhealthy interest...

If there's one thing any man knows, it's you don't mess with a woman's hair, a rule which prolific Japanese cult director Sion Sono opted to ignore for this horror movie. Apparently sick of all those J-Horror efforts where the apparition will take the form of a young woman with long, black hair, or alternatively inspired by them, Exte was not the first to take the barnet itself as a source of the fear, but it's fair to say that Sono picked up the idea and ran with it. Thus the cursed extensions were, in frankly convoluted fashion, allowed to find their way into the hairdressers' market and wreak havoc on those unlucky enough to suffer their attention.

Our main character was not Yamazaki (Ren Osugi), the hair-obsessed pervert (or "hentai" as he gets yelled at him late on in the tale) who gets the accursed material off the slab and into the world, but a hairdresser who works at a beauty salon named the Gilles de Rais. That name might not be entirely reassuring, but this is a horror flick after all, so off they go into the realm of the very odd as Yuko (Chiaki Kuriyama from Battle Royale) finds she has domestic troubles when her unruly sister leaves her small daughter with her, and Yuko notices her body has bruises on it. You might wonder whether a movie on this absurd subject was really the right place for pondering child abuse, but it's here nonetheless.

There was a tradition of small children having to be protected in J-Horror, so it's not as if there was no precedent, so it was really the nature of those death sequences the other characters were afflicted by which brought out the strangeness. Yamazaki steals a body from the morgue, one which either has been stuffed with hair or - more worryingly - is actually growing hair by itself, and lots of it. It could be that Sono was concerned with some kind of scandal about where the extensions come from in real life, although there may be something in that it's hard to believe anyone could be murdered for their crowning glory - if you left them alive you could grow more, couldn't you?

Anyway, the sicko harvests the hair emerging from the cadaver and makes it into extensions, but the curse thanks to the violent nature of the deceased woman's execution follows anyone who happens to come into contact with the strands. This leads to setpieces such as a visitor to the salon Yuko works at having her hair rebel against her, coating her tongue, sprouting from her eyes, and even shooting out like cables to attach to the ceiling and lifting her up accordingly. Before long there are rooms full of the stuff, taking over like The Blob in some old fifties sci-fi movie, and although the budget was not there to offer shots of it rampaging through the streets what Sion comes up with for his frights showcase an imagination amusing itself with various concepts built around the central killer hair conceit. Some regarded this as a comedy, but all indications are that if it was a spoof, it was a very straightfaced one, nothing groundbreaking but the novelty was undeniable. Music by Sono and Tomoki Hasegawa.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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