One of the things I love most about watching good films is how they can sometimes turn you on to things you didn’t know about before; for example recently I learned about the Philadelphia Experiment from the movie Outpost (yay for super-secret WWII cloaking weapons!). What Suicide Manual: Intermediate Level introduced me to, though, is rather more disturbing. In Japan in 1993 a book was published under the title of The Complete Manual of Suicide. This book aimed to do exactly what the title suggest – provide the reader with a guide for suicide methods, breaking them down by the pain, effort, success rate, and the state the body would be left in afterwards. This book was never banned; however it has been linked to, and blamed for, a number of youth suicides in Japan.
The original Suicide Manual film was based around this book, supposedly as a form of retaliation against the book, and SM:IL continues that vein, attempting to bring in better production values and introducing a supernatural element to the story. Although the film starts with the disclaimer “The purpose of this film is to warn against suicide” I really didn’t get a particularly strong sense that it was in fact making any real efforts to discourage suicide. Actually the film doesn’t do much at all; through the mind-numbingly slow 85m the plot wanders around aimlessly like a drunk goldfish and utterly fails to build any kind of suspense, interest, or pace. Many scenes seem to have been stretched out for the sake of padding, and it really shows.
The plot follows forensic office Yosuke (Yoichiro Saito) as he investigates a series of suicides which all seem to have one thing in common: a plain black covered DVD which contains instructions on suicide techniques, presented by none other than Rikki (Yûko Nakamura) from the first film. As his investigation progresses (or doesn’t thanks to the complete absence of direction in the plot) both he and his girlfriend Megumi (Nozomi Andô), herself a suicide survivor, fall under the influence of the DVD and spiral towards self destruction. A journalist, Isoyama (Yûko Daike), assists Yosuke in his investigation. Normally I’d be worried that I’ve provided spoilers with the above description, but you see everything coming a long time before you get there – something which goes to further shatter any chance of any scare in the film. In fact, there are no scares in this film, not even a cheap jump out at the camera. Even the supernatural element is so woefully mistreated as to be an exercise in suspense impotence.
Visually the transfer is about as sharp as you could hope from a V-Cinema title (Japanese direct-to-video market), but the colours and contrasts sometimes look washed out – particularly in outdoor scenes. The 4:3 letterboxed aspect ratio lends nothing to the visuals but did cause the subtitles to fall half into the black band.
Extras on the disc include the UK and Japanese trailers, and possibly the worst “Behind the Scenes” I have ever seen. What you are treated to is around 8 minutes of random footage, a good portion of which was actually from the movie itself, set to a very annoying two minute piece of music which repeats. There is no dialog whatsoever on this feature; all you get is the chance to look at actors and crew doing not very interesting things on set.
If the creators of this film and it’s prequel really cared about creating something that would discourage people from suicide then they could have done something quite special and really de-glorified suicide and shown the profound impact it has on those that are left behind. However they obviously don’t really care and are just exploiting the fame of The Complete Manual of Suicide in order to make a quick buck, and their lack of interest shows at every dragging step of this plodding movie. Ironically the whole experience of watching this has made me feel quite bleak! Don’t bother watching it, the premise is far more interesting than the execution.