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Suicide Manual: Intermediate Level DVD Review

Written by Milos Jovanovic

DVD released by Terra

Directed by Yuuichi Onuma
Written by Mikaho Ishikawa and Hiroshi Kanno
2003, Region 2 (PAL), 85 Minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on November 27th, 2006

Nozomi Andô as Nozomi Kirino
Yuuko Daike as Masae Isoyama
Katsuya Kobayashi as Police Detective Sasaki
Masaru Matsuda as Police Detective Takeda
Mika Mifune as Saitô
Yûko Nakamura as Rikki
Yoichiro Saito as Yôsuke Tatsumi
Kanji Tsuda as Adachi
Yûrei Yanagi as Fumihiro Kodera

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When attempting to make a sequel out of a horror movie, you should know you're on a slippery slope. Many a fine horror films have managed to get their good name tarnished by a plethora of subpar follow-ups — just think of all the Halloweens, Hellraisers and such. That The Suicide Manual (or The Manual, as the UK release is known) had a sequel in the first place was already ominous; sure, it was an alright film, but not exactly franchise material. But when one considers the fact it was made the same year as the original, with a different director and on the same shoestring budget, one can hardly expect he's getting Citizen Kane on his review desk. I admit, I didn't have the highest of expectations going into this one, and yet I still managed to get rather disappointed.

As the story goes, there's yet another plague of suicides happening in ol' Tokyo town, and all the victims are found with a neat all-black DVD copy of "The Suicide Manual". This time, the poor sod who gets first-hand experience with the havoc that disc wreaks, is a forensic officer Yusuke (Yoichiro Sato, also seen in Shinji Aoyama's Eureka). Yusuke's girlfriend, Megumi (Nozomi Ando, a holdover from The Manual) has attempted suicide numerous times, and Yusuke, per recommendation from Dr. Kodera (J-horror veteran Yurei Yanagi), sends her to a support group called "Samsara". Soon, Yusuke starts suspecting "Samsara"'s practices, and aided by journalist Isoyama (Yuuko Daike, who appears in several Takeshi Kitano films), is determined to find out what and who exactly is behind that organization. And lest I forget, the host of the suicide DVDs is no-one else but our old friend Rikki (Yuko Nakamura, again), who died two years ago...or did she ?

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Put bluntly, this film should have never happened. The first Manual struggled enough to fill 80 minutes of feature length, and just managed it. The presence of coherent plot and decent characters helped its cause, too. The sequel, though, is a muddled, messy affair, with original material enough to last 35 minutes and the rest being filled by numerous unnecessary flashbacks and scenes which are drawn out just for the sake of padding. There is no clear narrative, and the plot is basically non-existent. While suicides served as a plot mover in first part, they are just cosmetics in second, losing their neccessity and impact (which is hilarious, as this is supposed to be a movie about, well, suicides). Perhaps the biggest flaw of this film is that it essential isn't a sequel, but merely a remake — SM:IL retains the structure and basic plot hook of the first movie, Rikki and all included. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if it improved on this concept, however as it actually degrades it, further discussion is rather moot.

The absence of Osamu Fukutani, who directed and co-scripted the first film, is pretty obvious. Yuuichi Onuma, who served as Fukutani's assistant on The Manual, does not manage in drumming up the necessary creepiness which permeated its predecessor, and fails to deliver a single scary scene in the whole of film. Wholly bereft of even slightest boo scares, SM:IL's only brighter moments arrive in form of Rikki's deadpan "suicide guide", which also produce a couple of decent special effects and gory bits.

Just like it was the case with The Manual, the acting in SM2 is decent enough — you won't be cringing as it often happens with non-Japanese indie horror films. The script, however, is on a subpar level — Fukutani's genteel touch is missing again, and holdover Hiroshi Kanno can't manage it on his own.

Summed up, you're best off giving this one a very wide berth. The first movie was decent enough, but the sequel was way off any mark, and is best forgotten.

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Video and Audio:

The Suicide Manual : Intermediate Level is given a 1.85:1 letterbox presentation here, and guess what ? It suffers from the same ailment like the first disc. Again, we have a case of subtitles falling into the letterbox, so yet again I had to manipulate around it on my 16:9 TV set in order to make it watchable with subs. Unlike the first disc, however, the transfer is rather grainy. The source is again DV, but while first disc had almost crystally good picture, the second fails miserably. Oddly enough, the transfer seems to get worse as the disc progresses.

The only audio choice on the disc is the original Japanese DD 2.0, and there are no complaints about that one. There are 20 chapters on the disc — more than enough for a 85 minute feature.

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Special Features:

As for extras, amazingly enough — they're IDENTICAL to the first disc as well. Again, there is the UK trailer without subs for Japanese captions. Again, there is the Japanese trailer without subs for dialogue. And again, there is a behind the scenes featurette without dialogue. The music in this featurette is the very same music like on the first one, which is also the very same music which is being played on menu screens of both discs. The menus look pretty similar as well.


Movie: 1 Star
Video: 2 Stars
Audio: 4 Stars
Features: 1.5 Stars
Overall: 1.5 Stars

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