Sometimes, the term horror doesn’t really need to mean monsters, evil spirits or gore.
You see, Horror is the genre that need not generalize the prospect of a film; it is a complex and branched out genre, both poetic and literal at the same time. The horror in this film comprises of inner demons and pressured souls, the fear of growing old, growing weak and repulsive, the paranoia of being rejected after being loved and acknowledged for so long, the cringe effect of a raunchy and greedy society and the fact that nothing is ever good for those around you… that nothing is ever good for yourself.
To briefly summarize the film, Helter Skelter is about a young and famous superstar who is both loved and envied by everyone who idolize her. Besides her popularity from her frequent TV shows, magazine shoots and film roles, Ririko is also known for her pearl-like flawless skin, perfect figure and a face that seems far from tarnish: a true icon of beauty. The film progresses as it is revealed that Ririko has gone under many extreme plastic surgery procedures to achieve the meat suit she currently flaunts. As she deals with her career and personal dilemmas, the process and outcome of the surgeries begin to take its toll on her, affecting both her body and sanity. She makes the lives of all those around her miserable as her inner demons manifest from her paranoia, molding her into the monster she’d been fearing all along.
It took me a while to get the story of this film to properly sink in, not because it was tremendously buried in personification and figurative speeches of malicious intent… who can’t get that factor of the plot? 😉 or is it because I read the manga first then watched the film right after. Either way, it took me a while because of a few things: one, I had a hard time sympathizing the lead character; I didn’t know if she was worth the beauty or worth the punishment that came with the beauty. Her back story should have been solid enough to support her harmful intentions but it didn’t. In short, instead of feeling sorry for her and pointing fingers at those who made her that way, I disliked her character from the beginning. That’s kudos to Erika Sawajiri’s acting performance after a 5-year long hiatus.
Second… is the power and desire to be beauty itself in society really that bad nowadays? How did one, from being so simple yet charming, become so exaggerated and cosseted in their physical image? How much more of this pressure can any of us really take? The whole concept of this is what makes Helter Skelter truly horrifying. The entirety of the film reeks of symbolism and allegory and no matter how hard you try to stop watching it and understanding it, it captivates you even further. The aura was simple yet it added to the complications of the lead’s dilemmas and the supporting cast gave a sturdy and defined execution of their roles, making them more than just background accessories of the lead character. I personally liked Shinobu Terajima’s character, Michiko Hata. Though some might see her as weak and easily pushed around (because she really was), Hata was the only one who saw Ririko’s worth and that deep inside, she was a good person before and is up until now. Despite her age, she indirectly represented the innocence and oblivious mentality of young adults and how oppressed they are in some situations. I could go on and on about this film but if you’re the type who enjoys a film that will psychologically challenge your mind and make your insecurities and inferiorities the demons and monsters under your bed, go ahead with Helter Skelter.