All posts by Giles Edwards

Film major & would-be writer. 6'3". @gilesforyou (TwT)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: EXTE: HAIR EXTENSIONS (2007)

エクステ

AKA Ekusute; AKA Exte; AKA Hair Extensions

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Sion Sono

FEATURING: , Miku Satô, , Ken Mitsuishi

PLOT: A woman’s corpse found in a human-hair-filled shipping container spews forth beautiful black hair, inflicting grisly fates upon those who use it as hair extensions.

Still from Exte: Hair Extensions (2007)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA:  Paranormal hair attacks alternate with domestic drama, making a strange weave of narrative that slides the viewer ever more tightly between its strands as it braids into a frightening, heartwarming climax.

COMMENTS: You may note that the word “hair” appears three times in the plot description. This is not enough times. The hair in Exte is ubiquitous, vexing its victims in increasingly strange ways. An extension harvested from an organ-harvest victim poises itself ominously at the ear canal of its wearer; a stylist is bombarded with harrowing recollections of illegal surgery. The hair tips jab into her brain, and she jabs her scissors into the side of her customer’s head. Later, the victim’s daughter views a violent, bloody thrashing through a hair-cut gash in door of the cupboard where she hides. An apartment window smashes outward as copious human hair bursts through the living space. And those are just small snips of the sinister proceedings.

Simultaneously, we hear the story of Mizushima Yoku, an up-and-coming young stylist who cheerily bombards an unseen audience with exposition—a habit that she and a co-worker picked up from a crummy television show. At work, Yoku cheerfully goes about her styling under the firm, but kind, tutelage of the master stylist. She has a jerk-bag sister, Kiyomi, who abandons her submissive daughter at Yoku’s house for a few days while Kiyomi goes out to party with her scum boyfriend. This mix of filial tension and sober depiction of child abuse exists as its own story universe while, on the other side of the narrative, a creepy coroner with a hair fetish steals the body of a mystically charged woman who grows hair at a furious pace in response to the wrongs she endured. When paths cross, as they must do, things get… hairy.

Exte juggles its tones so deftly that it’s only upon reflection that it dawns that Sion Sono is up to something very strange. To be sure, the hair-murder set pieces made me want to cheer Exte on. But the fusion of that strand with small gauge melo-tragedy is simultaneously incongruent and perfectly blended—like a cunning weave of ever so slightly off-colored hair done at the hands of a master stylist. And this tangle of a reaction has barely even mentioned Ren Ôsugi as the manic-pixie-psycho-coroner, all creepiness, whimsy, and song in his seaside shack-cum-shrine to beautiful human hair.

Sono proves once again a master stylist, lovingly curling this absurd story together from its disparate strands (in case this all was coming across as too simple, there’s also “police procedural” thrown into the mix, as detectives investigate the increasing body count). The perfect pacing, balance of soft and terror lighting, and the finessed performances calibrated to a scissor-edge between high drama and silly splatter are a sheer delight.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Even by the standards of Japanese horror movies, Exte is a very weird film. This is a movie all about hair, not just tangentially but intrinsically. Hair isn’t the McGuffin, it’s not the setting, it’s everything.” — M.J. Simpson, MJ Simpson Films (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Chris Thurlow, who describes it as “a possibly weird film about a man obsessed with hair who, while working in a police morgue, discovers a woman’s body that continues to grow copious amounts of hair despite the fact that she is dead.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: LADYWORLD (2018)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Amanda Kramer

FEATURING: Ariela Barer, Annalise Barro, Ryan Simpkins

PLOT: Seven young women, unable to leave a house after an earthquake, descend into paranoia.

Still from Ladyworld (2018)

COMMENTS: A low rumble; growing chaos; a cacophony of destruction: all taking place during a black screen. A destructive earthquake traps eight young women in a house. Rubble gathers up to the window tops, blocking all known exits. We see none of this, but the impression is clear, the sensation of imprisonment rendered wholly through sound design. This background—creaks, crashes, and whirring blades of helicopter—traps us with these confined, forgotten women; a human-sound film score of yelps and bursts augments the dread. Ladyworld is an uncomfortable place, and misery for its inhabitants.

This riff on Lord of the Flies flips the script, gender-wise, exploring the trope from a wholly feminine perspective. Much is the same: feral tribalism bursts through a civil veneer, even in such a small group; spatial confinement melds with a growing hopelessness to trigger listlessness and psychosis, depending on the moment and victim; and sightings of a man lurking in the dark basement add an edge of terror to the ambient menace. By the film’s end, nearly everyone has lost it.

Amanda Kramer plays a risky game with her story. Its strengths and weaknesses are the same cards. There is much repetition—dialogue, montage, and shots—which at times grows tedious; but, that’s the point. Kramer emphasizes the differences between feuding factions—Olivia’s civil-minded, and smaller, cadre on the one side, and Piper’s gangster-clique on the other—more and more over time. Every corner of living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, closet, and, of course, the forbidden basement, becomes trashed, nicely reflecting the state of the party. We see these rooms and developments again and again. And again. You may want to scream, “Enough, already!” But just think of how the characters feel.

Ladyworld is up front in putting its characters and setting right in the title, and it delivers a discomfited vision. It is a film to be endured alongside the story’s victims. While it would have done well—maybe—to be trimmer by a quarter of an hour, it might had less impact. After the opening black screen shot and its destructive sound establishes the ambient tension, it only ratchets up. The audience bears witness to the strain until the unlikely, but apt, finale, when the ladies’ world bursts asunder.

Yellow Veil re-released Ladyworld on DVD and Blu-ray in January 2024, with alternate and deleted scenes, a director’s commentary, two Kramer short films, her otherwise unreleased debut feature Paris Window, and even more extras.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“...it proves its own surreal, savage and superbly performed creation… painfully real in its emotions yet dreamily unreal in its atmosphere, an effective and haunting combination which is heightened by image and soundtrack choices.”–Sarah Ward, Screen Daily (festival screening)

SLAMDANCE 2024: ODDS & ENDS

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Bitcoin Car

Trygve Luktvasslimo has many things to say about the evils of global business, agricultural affairs, and especially bitcoin. As screeds go, Bitcoin Car is, at least, a largely whimsical one. The plot description (if you’ll pardon the long quotation)—“a musical adventure in which a young goat farmer on a small coastal village finds herself on collision course with the megalomaniac death wish of a young crypto investor. After her brother comes home for the summer, she has to explain that she’s partially responsible for the gold-plated bitcoin mining facility located on top of the cemetery where their parents are buried because she accepted a lot of money in order to pimp out — and gold plate — her old Toyota”—suggests a number of possibilities, and its oddness is what caught our eye.

However, Gloria’s campaign against Big Crypto is peppered with long remarks extolling the evils of This (I do feel that bitcoin mining is an appalling waste of resources), and the goodness of That (I do not feel that digging in a hole in the ground should be romanticized). Bitcoin Car is capably executed by all involved, and has a few fun musical interludes with singing angelic electrons (“My Electric Blues,” with accordion and holy chorus, is an unalloyed delight), but it is far more preachy than weird.

Darla in Space

Are you getting enough from your kombucha? Sure, it may revivify and refine your gut—but where are the mind-blowing orgasms? Susie Moon and Eric LaPlante feel you deserve more. It’s nothing tawdry (despite the motel backdrop), it’s therapeutic, a “menage.” And unless your scoby is getting your rocks off, are you really having a refreshing quaff of kombucha?

Darla in Space is a fairly compact experience in cuteness, supported by solid performances and a charismatically deadpan scoby around the size of a kiddie pool. Darla is in horrible debt to the IRS (courtesy of her insensitive mother), and a chance discovery of a sensitive, sentient scoby (referred to as… “Mother”) puts her on the path to paying off her massive tax burden through its power of delivering mind-blowing orgasms.

Characters are established (Darla is quirky, as we know from the start with her advertisement for “Kitty Kaskets”), plot points are ticked, montages montage, and complications in the film, as in life, get complicated. But, this being a movie, we know all loose ends will be tied. Alex E. Harris keeps the hipster-awkward Darla just this side of believable, and J.S. Oliver provides a cuddlier take on the HAL phenomenon. Perhaps worth another look by our crack squad here at 366, but at least all the synopses, trailers, and press releases are up-front about the hyper-quirk. You have been warned. (Or, just as reasonably, you have been intrigued.)

The Washer

Major points awarded to writer/director/&c. Nils A Witt for this science-fiction oddity. His protagonist’s assuredness and mechanical aptitude renders The Washer a combination of Primer and Pi,  as our hero (of sorts) falls deeper and deeper into developing his time-bending invention comprised of an ever-growing array of synchronized washing machines. There is never any point in this tech-thriller where the premise is explained, even with the clever inclusion of various academic-looking types explaining this, that, and the other about the physics of time, space, light, and causality.

Jan is at the start of his career with what appears to be a small but respectable law firm, but his growing fascination with the spinning, watery-eye of his washing machine’s view port shunts him down a rabbit hole of strange science and personal alienation. As his research deepens, a mysterious woman stalks the periphery, and his failure to pay his bills—alongside the tremendous increase in water and electricity use noticed by the municipality—grind him down, leaving him covered in grease, clothed in ragged garments, and limping by the time he has fully assembled his rig. While Witt’s directorial debut makes the human toll all too clear, the science is left both mysterious and mundane. The Washer is a nice, quiet little speculative noodle-scratcher, and I look forward to another Witt work, whether I’ll understand it or not.

SLAMDANCE 2024: SLIDE (2024)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Bill Plympton

FEATURING: Voices of Maureen McElheron, Jim Lujan, Tom Racine, Ana Sophia Colón, Daniel Kaufman

PLOT: Emerging from a desert whirlpool, a mysterious slide guitarist defends the locals—and the local monster—from the corrupt machinations of the mayor of Sourdough Creek.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Plympton’s absorbingly grotesque animation style, paired perfectly with his oddball storytelling, make his films a shoo-in ’round these parts.

COMMENTS: A bearded hick, launched from his horse-driven observation perch above an incomplete dam, hurdles through the air as dozens of flying logs arc in his direction. He screams, and the camera appears to crash through his mouth, past his teeth, down his esophagus, through his guts, and out again through the… other end. This dramatic journey is animated in Bill Plympton’s signature, jaunty style, and is just one of the countless examples of him playing with lines in motion.

The man in question is Jeb Carver, the mayor of hickturesque Sourdough Creek, the rustic locale where Tinselwood Studios is hoping to film their latest blockbuster. Never one to abstain from milking a chance for all its worth, Carver takes this opportunity to convert his logging town into “Monte Carlo del Norte,” pushing his citizens to deadly lengths to whip up a dam, casino, and resort over the course of a week. The immigrant fishing village gets leveled, the “service girls” work extra shifts, and the band is banned from playing slow music. Enter a mysterious stranger, and his slide guitar.

The silly plot is pushed forward with silly machinations, silly dialogue, and a sinister (but still fairly silly) monster which is disturbed by the deforestation. This silliness serves mostly to allow Plympton to play around with his weird cartooning. Characters chase other characters up interminable stairs; dozens of unnaturally proportioned firearms pop up and fire from trees, fish, and hats; teardrops slide and slosh in extreme closeups; bosoms bounce up and down (and, for the kinky types, side to side) courtesy of the in-film technological marvel, The Sugar Shaker; and Yellow Submarine-esque fantasies play out like nauseous reimaginings of psychedelic whimsy.

Slide is not groundbreaking, it’s not “big” in any sense of the term, and as a pastiche, isn’t “new” per se. But, it is unfailingly interesting to watch (a necessity for a cartoon—something that other animation studios would do well to remember) and oh-so-reassuringly bizarre. Bill Plympton is a talented artist, particularly for having chosen the (difficult) route of animation in his unique style of comical grotesquerie writ (er, drawn) large. Kick back, keep your eyes peeled, and allow Plympton’s latest eccentricity to Slide deep down your pie-hole.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Named after its completely mute lead character and his ‘slide guitar,’ this surreal movie overflows with ideas and mesmerizing imagery…. If Slide sounds bonkers, it absolutely is.” — Josh Batchelder, Josh at the Movies (festival screening)

SLAMDANCE 2024: LOVE AND WORK (2024)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Peter Ohs

FEATURING: Stephanie Hunt, Will Madden, Frank Mosley

PLOT: Diane and Fox love to work, a banned practice which may land them in “Time Out,” but this does not thwart their pursuit of productivity.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Quirky black and white dystopian rom-com: sure, we can dig it. But Love and Work‘s particular breed of social commentary is unlike any other I’ve encountered.

COMMENTS: Diane and Fox extol the virtues of The Weekend, without fully grasping just what it is; but in their gut they know The Weekend is good, and that it is good only because of what comes before. Their former boss, still recovering from a stint in Time Out and a close run-in with the Reminders after trying to recreate the workplace, seeks answers from them as they stand on a street corner holding inspirational placards.

It’s better than a hobby. It’s better than a job. It’s The Weekend.

“What’s ‘The Weekend’?”

The answer to all your troubles.

Peter Ohs’ Love and Work is among the breeziest of bleak future visions put to screen. In this world, jobs are outlawed—a mandate enforced, free of charge, by busy-bodies whose only qualification is having memorized every governmental ordinance.

An underground network has grown among those who wish to work, employing coded language to dodge the Reminders who would put them in Time Out (a much-dreaded punishment, though not quite so bad as “The Relaxation Room”). In the foreground are Diane and Fox, two rebels who crave supervision, productivity, and shifts as long as possible.

Will Madden’s gangly Bob Fox attempts to woo Stephanie Hunt’s tight-lipped Diane. Love and Work efficiently pushes romantic comedy tropes to their extreme to bring this pair of ambitious workers together, instilling a level of awareness generally lacking in the hobby-filled, run-down town in which they’re stuck in. A previous boss winces as he shows them the ukulele he’s been doomed to play, and a former co-worker stealthily knits a sweater whilst lurking in a back alley after a crack-down on a job site.

It’s all rather silly, and delightfully so. But it serves a purpose. Loath though I am to phrase it this way, Love and Work is a manifesto, and Ohs and his team have an agenda. The scenario could have been a hyper-capitalist dream: “See? People want to work! They long for it!”; alternately, it could have been some wispy musing on the evils of forced productivity. To my surprise and palpable relief, it turned out to be neither. Love and Work is a fun, oddball little comedy, passing along to the viewer a message of hope: hope for a sensible world, where everyone can truly enjoy The Weekend.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Even the character’s speech feels unnatural and broken, almost a cross between a Yorgos Lathimos screenplay and kids trying to sound like adults. The tone of the dialogue works perfectly in tandem with the setting to create the feeling of peeking in on a surreal, alternate universe.”–Elle Cowley, Slug Mag (festival screening)