EXTE: Hair Extensions is a film that takes the soggy dead girl trope to its logical conclusion; like The Wig before it, it’s not the ghost of the murdered party who carries out its revenge, but the hair itself. Also like The Wig, though, EXTE has lots going for it as a film, and the evil killer hair is actually the weakest link.
The film’s premise relies on an awful lot of coincidences. A mysterious dead woman turns up in a morgue, with most of her internal organs, including her eyes, removed and with lots and lots of hair filling the resultant cavities. The morgue attendant is a hair fetishist who has been harvesting the hair from corpses for a while, so when he comes across this one, filled with hair that seems to keep on growing at a terrifying rate, he thinks he’s struck gold.
Meanwhile, Yuko, a hair stylist in training, finds herself taking care of her elder sister’s abused daughter, who also happens to have beautiful long hair. When the hair fetishist finds the young girl wandering the streets, he brings her to Yuko at work – in a hair salon that’s been using the hair harvested from the magical corpse as hair extensions – and everything goes horribly, manically wrong for everyone involved.
The best parts of the film revolve around Yuko, who’s played by Chiaki Kuriyama, familiar to most Western audiences now thanks to her unforgettable turn in Kill Bill. Self-consciously quirky, Yuko talks in a bizarre expositionary way that’s actually rather endearing. Her roommate Yuki and fellow would-be hairstylists at work have all adopted Yuko’s weird speech patterns, and it all seems very friendly until Yuko’s sister shows up.
Kiyomi is the exact opposite of endearing: she’s cruel, rude, abusive to both Yuko and her own daughter Mami, and when she’s not busily breaking into Yuko’s flat to steal her belongings, she’s cuddling up to cruel and abusive men in bars. She’s the kind of villain you just know is going to get her comeuppance at some point later in the movie, because no-one that nasty will ever be allowed to survive a horror movie. It’s easy to be drawn into the family drama here, willing Yuko to stand up to her horrible sister and save Mami from her horrible life. But then the CGI hair shows up.
CGI hair shouldn’t ever be scary. Wigs skittering around on the floor aren’t scary, they just look silly. But EXTE takes the hair horror a step further: a hair extension infects the brain of a hairdresser while she’s with a client, turning her into someone you really don’t want aiming scissors at your head; another girl finds hair growing out of her eyeballs, out of her fingers, out of her tongue; the evil hair coils itself around another girl’s throat, strangling her – it becomes a sort of body horror, rather than a supernatural one, reminiscent of the hair-like growths Jeff Goldblum suffered in the early stages of The Fly. As the film progresses, this will mostly be forgotten in favour of overblown daftness, but the early few victims of the supernatural hair suffer some really horrible fates.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all went wrong, but certainly in the last third of EXTE, my opinion of the movie as a whole plummeted. Judging by the title, I’d expected this to be pure silliness, or maybe it’d be a parody along the lines of One Missed Call; knowing it was by the director of Suicide Club made me raise my expectations somewhat, and the film really did open strongly. But then it all just went so frustratingly, stupidly wrong that I can’t figure out what anyone thought they were doing.
The ridiculously comical final showdown between Yuko and Mami vs the psychopathic hair fetishist should just be deleted from life, and the defeat of the villain just…didn’t happen. The dead girl didn’t get her revenge; she wasn’t laid to rest; she wasn’t made to see the error of her ways – she just stopped. Maybe there was a time limit on her revenge, but usually in these types of movies the dead girl’s revenge becomes a disproportionately enormous supernatural vendetta (see: Ring, Ju-on, etc). In EXTE, innocent girls as well as nasty horrible people became targets for her rage; the only thing that separated Yuko and Mami from all the other victims seems to have been that, well, they were the heroines of the movie, so the villain decided to pack up and go home without attacking them. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Bah.
Maybe I’m just bitter: I’d had low expectations, they’d been completely blown away by some nice character work and some truly spooky imagery, and then it all went disastrously wrong at the end. I was all set to tell you that, even if you’d been avoiding every Asian horror movie with vengeful long-haired ghosts in it, this was the one to watch, and then the ending just slapped me in the face with its nonsensical wrapping up. Did the scriptwriter just miss their deadline and type “the end” in place of a real ending, or what? Disappointing.
Extras: The disc I was sent for review didn’t have anything other than the film on it, and the best I could find out online was that extras are “to be confirmed.” Bah!
Film:(would have been 3 or 4 until the last half hour) Extras: TBC