Three cops investigate a large container crate in a harbour one evening, concerned about the stink emanating from it.

When they open the crate they are alarmed to discover that it filled with human hair. When a bald cadaver is glimpsed through the hair, the cops positively shit themselves and flee for their lives.

Meanwhile, in a morgue, attendant Yamazaki (Ren Osugi, NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE) is told by his boss that the police have been in touch - they have something very interesting for them to inspect in the morning. While the boss retires for the evening, we become privy to Yamazaki's secret hobby as he steals clumps of long black hair from a fresh female corpse …

Next we meet amiable young Yuko (Chiaki Kuriyama, KIDS) who is a trainee hair stylist living with her new roommate, wannabe dancer Yuki (Megumi Sato, TENSHI). They have developed an annoying habit of talking to each other in third-person format, although this proves useful for comprehension purposes, as they provide details of everyone they meet: "Ah, here's my fellow trainee hair stylist and friend Sachi, who has also been training for the last 2 years" … and so on.

Yuko is happy with her life and her job, until her vile half-sister Kiyami (Tsugumi, NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE) dumps her daughter Mami (Miku Sato, KAABEE) on Yuko's doorstep so she can go partying. Yuko is furious, but looks after the child regardless - and shares her horror with Yuki when they discover that the young girl's body is covered in bruises.

In possibly the film's highlight, Kiyami turns up at Yuko's house to pick Mami up, and the two housemates manage to stand up to the bully and kick her out, keeping Mami with them in the process. But while they win the argument, it's clear that Kiyami will not take the matter lying down - and knows some very unsavoury people to boot …

Meanwhile, two dumb detectives are given the job of investigating the identity of the corpse found in the harbour container. They liase with the coroners to establish a cause of death, but are horrified when stitches in the girl's stomach are scissored open and bundles of black hair fall out.

Unbeknownst to the others, Yamazaki has enjoyed a nice sideline in providing hair extensions of exceptional quality to stylists over the last few years, winning many awards for his efforts throughout the years. He smuggles the corpse out of the morgue and takes it home, where hair continues to grow for it's various orifices - much to his elation.

Yamazaki starts to peddle the luscious hair to various stylists around Japan. However, before long we discover that the hair is controlled by the vengeful soul of the murdered girl - and when she gets angry, the hair becomes furious also - and kills those wearing it.

This, curiously, excites Yamazaki all the more and he desperately tries to cultivate more and more of the dubious locks. It is, of course, just a matter of time until Yuko - and Mami, who she begins to teach the basics of hairdressing to - come into contact with the mental Yamazaki and his deadly extensions …

Perceived as a parody of J-Horror, EXTE is a bizarre proposition indeed. Its humour is for the most part dark and subdued but there are moments of near-slapstick farce that kill the mood on occasion. Now and again the film will slip into unexpectedly dark territory (flashbacks to the girl's grisly murder; the beating of Mami), making the overall tone of EXTE a tad schizophrenic.

Visually, the film is well-lensed and boasts the same stylistically muted colour scheme that characterises most Asian horror fare. It's good to look at it, competently edited and benefits from strong female performances.

But it's that wildly shifting tone that writer-director Sion Sono (SUICIDE CLUB; NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE) must take the flak for. It all but strips the film of a hook.

By far the best thing in the film is also its most disturbing element: the subject of Mami's destructive relationship with her mother. This sub-plot could easily have been the film's only concern, and arguably EXTE would have been all the better for it. As it stands, EXTE's interesting take on Japanese Cinema clichés such as child abuse and sibling rivalry are undermined by the increasingly silly "horror" aspects of the plot and Osugi's overacting.

I suspect this screener disc from Revolver Entertainment is not indicative of how the DVD will look when released.

The film is presented uncut in a fairly soft and grainy 1.78:1 transfer which is not enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. The Japanese 2.0 audio is a much better job than the video transfer offered, although English subtitles are burned in.

There were no extras or menus on the screener disc, but the film could be remote-accessed by way of 9 chapters.

Considering the fact that J-Horror has become a victim of self-parody over the last few years, it seems bizarre that a talented Japanese filmmaker like Sono would choose to lampoon it in this manner. Regardless, EXTE is disjointed in it's storytelling, unconvincing in it's horror and judging by it's constantly shifting tone, it's unsure of it's intent. For hair fetishists only.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Revolver Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review