Helter Skelter (2013)
Words by Catrin Brooke
Helter Skelter (2013)
Based on the psychological horror manga by Kyoko Okazaki, Mika Ninagawa’s film 'Helter Skelter' triumphs the nightmarish and sinister reality that burdens the world of fashion and beauty. A gruesome horror-show at its core, this might just be the thrill that you seek, just make sure you keep an eye out for that ending!
Based on the psychological horror manga by Kyoko Okazaki, Helter Skelter was one of Japan's most successful films of 2012. Directed by Mika Ninagawa, the film triumphs over the nightmarish and sinister reality that burdens the world of fashion and beauty. Its story is a visionary social critique of the consequences met through the indulgence of one’s own vanity and self-absorption, told through the use of otherworldly and sugary imagery (think Moulin Rouge meets Candyland in Hannibal Lecter’s basement) camouflaging the horrifying parts.
Liliko, our antiheroine, is a beauty goddess, a dream girl and the role model of Japanese society. Every girl wants to be her, and every man wants to possess her, which many do as she begins to fill the inevitable void and pain deep inside her with sex and drugs. Pretty quickly we establish that Liliko is a shallow and tragically confused woman, who will never achieve her idealistic beauty standards, nor will she keep up with the naturally beautiful and impossibly perfect Kozue, the new ‘It’ girl on the scene. But the story, a gruesome horror-show at its core, is no lengthy prom queen quarrel and Liliko is no Regina George, who only playfully sabotages her opponent to get her crown.
As Liloko’s popularity starts to downturn, she is also dumped by almost everyone in her life including her assistant Hada, who releases an exposé, sharing all her dirty and surgical secrets to the tabloids. Faced with the harsh reality that nobody loves her, Liliko chooses to take drastic measures against herself, becoming her own worst nightmare. Reaping the harvest of her own preposterous ideas, we watch as Liliko’s unblemished public image is ruined.
Helter Skelter’s universe becomes even more secluded as the film continues, fitted with characters that behave in such a way that is so incomprehensibly distorted. As the self-hatred of many of the characters heightens it shows how even seemingly perfect people are insecure, illustrating how reality can be perceived so differently to how it really is. After two hours of screaming fits and enough lingerie shots to rival an Agent Provocateur campaign, the film does inevitably become a little predictable by the end, but nevertheless enjoyable with its compelling and grotesque storyline- both in equal measure.
It is clear that the script and character development is compromised by its visuals and distinctive aesthetics. With these prioritised over the storyline, the pace of the film does feel a little slow: a lot of screaming and graphic shots. It is easy to guess the fate of our main characters at the beginning, however, this horror is not made for the faint hearted and the ending still delivers us an unexpected twist.
Helter Skelter is no anomaly to other Japanese-made horror films in that it is totally ruthless and full of psychological torment (see The Ring, 2002 and Onibaba, 1964 if you are in search of further fright!). Lamenting the trope of unattainable perfection leading to inevitable demise, it spares no detail in its execution. If you seek something to get your heart rate up from the comfort of your own sofa, then Helter Skelter might just be the thrill that you seek- just make sure you keep an eye out for that ending.