Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Exte: Hair Extensions...

So I am just going on about random films this week, but this one is interesting from a scriptwriting point of view. I watched Exte: Hair Extensions last night and as J-horrors go it's not the best but has a lot going for it. The dialogue and characters are all good (as is the translation which makes a nice change), plus Chiaki Kuriyama is awesome and it was cool to see her carrying a film. But the best thing by far, and I rarely say this, was the effects - a really nice mix of practical and CGI that often managed to be effective and suitably disgusting.

The problem is in the script and it's purely a structural issue which is why I think it's worth mentioning as it shows the importance of good structure. The main character is set up really well and we understand her goals and her problems early on (she is even a good example of a character who has the oft-debated wants and needs that are said to be the basis of all good characters). Parallel to this story we are introduced to the possessed hair extensions of the title (yes, it really is a film about possessed hair extensions).

We are led to assume that that the hair extensions and Chiaki's character, Yuko, will clash at some point which will kick off the story. However, what happens instead is that we get another story when Yuko's sister dumps her young daughter on Yuko's doorstep. Yuko finds out that her sister is neglecting the child quite badly and decides to take her in. This causes complications with her career and leads to a confrontation with her abusive sister in one of the most tense dramatic scenes I've seen in a film for a long time. The problem is that it's quite far removed from a story about possessed hair extensions.
But that's okay, I prefer my horror films to be taken seriously and the depth this subplot adds to the characters is worth the minutes it adds to the running time. The issue is that it's a big enough complication to set a film running on its own without the possessed hair extensions. I'm still waiting for the possessed hair extensions story to collide with Yuko's story so the film can start. But that doesn't happen until at least an hour in, and even then there's still a sense that there are two very separate stories here that have begrudgingly agreed to share screen time even though they'd both rather have their own film. The two stories never quite fit together and the film often feels a bit directionless as a result.

The point is, if you set up character A, then show us big nasty situation B we will naturally assume that A & B will collide at some point and that this will be what drives the film forward. When this collision is actually more of a bump that happens an hour into the film you're in danger of losing your audience.

But I hope I haven't put anyone off watching the film as there is some excellent stuff in there.