Often I find that the scariest breed of film is that which could be real. It doesn’t necessarily need to be overly grotesque or feature a mammoth hockey-mask-wearing psychopath; Suicide Club doesn’t actually have a clear, identifiable antagonist at all. The most shocking element is that Suicide Club is, in a very roundabout way, based on true events. I say ‘roundabout’ because it isn’t based on any true event at all, however, it does bring to light Japan’s attitude towards suicide, having one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
The now notorious opening scene of Suicide Club features a mass suicide. Who’d have guessed? In fact, given the title of the film you do find yourself watching it thinking ‘Well, he/she is obviously going to kill him/herself now’ at pretty much every character that looks slightly dodgy. 54 school-girls casually stroll up to the side of a train platform, laughing and joking; they all line up, hold hands and then throw themselves in front of oncoming train. Just like that. It’s the indifference of the act that makes it so disturbing. It’s a rather grim aftermath; limbs fly through train windows, spectators are covered in guts and the blood literally forms a river on the train line. All that remains on the scene is a white bag, containing sewn together strips of skin.
Japan erupts into pandemonium. School children are throwing themselves off buildings under the impression that it’s some sort of new fad, nurses are jumping out of windows, one young woman chops off her hand and another puts her head into the oven, all in the most casual manner. There are a number of peculiar could-be explanations given, including a wannabe detective who calls herself ‘The Bat’, a website predicting the suicides via coloured dots and the most bizarre being some sort of ‘Clockwork Orange’ torture gang featuring a singing cross-dresser. In the background of all the anarchy and somehow linked to it, is Japan’s latest pop-sensation; a girl-group interchangeably named Desert, Dessert or Dessret (obviously there were some disagreements when coming up with the band name.)
Suicide Club draws attention to Japan’s fixation for fads, treating the suicide trend as a ridiculous new craze that all the cool kids are doing. The opening scene is certainly the most powerful, but the copycat suicides and wannabe antagonists are alarmingly familiar to real events in our past. Combining this with Japan’s love for consumerism and the media in addition to its high suicide rate, and we practically have ourselves a would-be true story. Except for the transsexual torture gang bit, that’s just weird.