Over recent years we’ve seen a number of horror films with people being killed with random things, whether it's tyres (Rubber), a dress (In Fabric) or a pair of jeans (Slaxx). But in Sion Sono’s Exte: Hair Extensions, people are being attacked by something that could affect nearly everyone, hair.
After custom agents find a shipping container filled with human hair as well as the corpse of a young girl, morgue night watchman and tricophile (hair fetishist) Yamazaki steals the body to satisfy his fetish. However, the young girl still holds a grudge due to the way she was murdered, and using her always growing hair, exacts revenge on anyone who gets too close to it.
Meanwhile, aspiring hair stylist Yuko has to deal with her abhorrent sister Kiyomi who dumps her daughter Mami, who she has been physically and psychologically abusing, at her door. As Yuko grows closer to Mami, people throughout her town are being killed and attacked in mysterious ways, which all seem to be linked to the dead girl and her hair.
Unlike a lot of body horror, Exte doesn’t use blood and gore to shock the audience. Instead people are killed with hair either being the murder weapon or the driving force of the attacks. The shocks come from the queasy ways the hair is shown to come out from the human body, whether that be through the eyes, growing on the tongue or shooting out of any open wounds. It makes the viewer uncomfortable as the disturbing images are a lot more effective than the usual slasher style deaths that they have come accustomed to.
With this being a mid 2000’s film and with a modest budget, the effects are surprisingly effective at showing the hair growing and distorting in various ways. The scenes where it is growing from the body are disturbing and the bizarreness of being large amounts of hair chasing people and attacking them is not as comedic as you would expect it to be.
The most surprising part of this film for me was the way the characters are developed and the storylines that take place while the horror usually takes a back step. The scenes involving Kiyomi are especially upsetting as we see her having no respect for anything apart from herself. She repeatedly trashes Yuko’s apartment and steals from her, while also showing atrocious abuse to her daughter Mami. The way Yuko takes responsibility as a guardian figure for Mami and the growing relationship between the two is almost the driving factor in this film, while Yamazaki’s exploits and the hair attacks almost work in the background until we reach the climatic third act.
It would be easy to see a premise such as Exte’s and see it as being a poorly produced body horror, but that is far from the truth as Sono creates a gripping film, that while it might be longer than needed, will appeal to horror fans with the disturbing images that the hair produces. With horror films often following the same themes, and producing numerous sequels, Exte provides something different that will be refreshing for horror fans and Sono enthusiasts.