Movies in Brief: Hair Extensions

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

As any J-horror aficionado will tell you, the long-haired, vengeful female ghost is one of the staples of the genre. But there’s so much more to the not-so-aptly named “Hair Extensions,” which opens Friday at the ImaginAsian theater. It’s actually a pastiche of serial-killer thriller, torture porn, domestic nightmare, and good old atmospheric J-horror. The film provides comparisons and contrasts among these diverging subgenres. It’s the survival of the fittest, albeit not in the traditional sense of the horror lexicon.

Inside a mysterious cargo bin stuffed to the gills with hair, the corpse of a young woman suddenly surfaces. Apparently, black marketers have removed all of her organs, the process of which we will soon witness in a series of “Hostel”-esque flashbacks. A morgue attendant named Yamazaki (Ren Osugi), who harvests hair from cadavers and then peddles the lovely locks to beauty parlors, soon takes the body home from the morgue. The newly arrived corpse is amazingly prolific, with hair sprouting everywhere. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly considering the rest of the film, the hair extensions it produces prove deadly and give new meaning to the term “split ends.”

Meanwhile, an aspiring stylist named Yuko (Chiaki Kuriyama, of “Kill Bill”) learns that her sadistic half-sister, Kiyomi (Tsugumi) — who tormented her throughout their formative years — is using her own daughter, Mami (Miku Sato), as a punching bag. This is where “Hair Extensions” gets really interesting. The heartless parent comes off as more disturbing than whatever supernatural or psychopathic forces are also at work. Writer-director Sion Sono has probably invested in those scenes only for the sake of overall coherence. But viewers will find themselves more invested in the plight of the characters in these domestic scenes than in any of the other ones.

As one would expect, “Hair Extensions” is tangled stylistically, and plot-wise it is simply unmanageable. Each subgenre treated within the film seems to follow its own logic and visual vocabulary. To be sure, it will make your own hair stand on end one way or another. But a film studies class will probably have more fun dissecting it than you and your date will.

The New York Sun

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