Any film opening with the spectacular suicide of 54 Japanese schoolgirls is a) all right by us, and b) going to have trouble living up to such a start. Still, Suicide Circle (a.k.a. Suicide Club) makes a good stab at it, though the answers supplied to its own questions are limited at best. The story tracks investigations into this sudden wave; police find a website that predicts the deaths, an informant with a cough, and a nattily-dressed psychopath who likes to burst into song. All the while, the bodies keep mounting, as do the sports bags containing stiched-together rolls of skin from the victims. And where do pre-teen pop sensations Desert fit in?
This is as much social satire as horror, jabbing at Japanese culture in a similar way to Battle Royale. Here, teenagers are the targets rather than the aggressors, subject to societal pressures almost guaranteed, it seems to say, to crack everyone eventually. Less successful is a final reel which spirals off into "Eh?" territory, as if writer/director Sono got bored with the concept. Yet, somewhere in the middle, I realised it didn't matter that much - I'd have been almost as disappointed if everything tied up neatly.
Our theory? Sono's a Beatles fan. One character calls himself "the Charlie Manson of the information age"; Manson found inspiration in Helter Skelter. There's also a secret message in a Desert poster, paralleling the "Paul is dead!" cover of Abbey Road, and a hidden telephone number giving a cryptic message, as coded in the Magical Mystery Tour sleeve. Repeat viewing may reveal more. Of course, we could be wildly wrong; such is the joy of this film.