A psychopathic rapist, who attacks women that wear red, runs a home for children with learning difficulties, and rapes a girl there who he sees wearing a red dress, leading to a revenge plot... Read allA psychopathic rapist, who attacks women that wear red, runs a home for children with learning difficulties, and rapes a girl there who he sees wearing a red dress, leading to a revenge plot by the girl's social worker.A psychopathic rapist, who attacks women that wear red, runs a home for children with learning difficulties, and rapes a girl there who he sees wearing a red dress, leading to a revenge plot by the girl's social worker.
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Mono
Though Chinese filmmakers have long been fascinated with images of violence and bloodshed - from the vintage horror films of Ma-xu Weibang through to Chang Cheh's splattery kung fu pictures of the 1970's - it wasn't until the early 1990's that Hong Kong horror movies found a new and unexpected foothold within the cultural mainstream, due to a wave of 'true crime' dramas spearheaded by DR. LAMB (1992) and THE UNTOLD STORY (1993), both helmed by Danny Lee (Chow Yun-fat's cop nemesis in John Woo's THE KILLER). For a brief period, the former colony played host to a wave of confrontational 'Category III' (Adults Only) movies, dominated by the work of controversial director Billy Tang. Already notorious for a scene in RUN AND KILL (1993) in which a little boy is burned alive in merciless detail, Tang proceeded to scale the heights of calculated outrage with RED TO KILL, arguably one of the most harrowing films ever made.
Orphaned by the death of her parents, a mentally handicapped young woman (Lily Chung) is remanded to the care of a hostel for the disabled, where she falls prey to 'benevolent' caretaker Ben Ng, a musclebound hulk whose charming demeanour belies his true nature: Traumatized by a childhood incident in which his mother slaughtered his father and brother with a meat cleaver, drenching him in blood, Ng is prompted to murderous psychosis whenever he sees the colour red, resulting in horrific explosions of rape and murder. Unable to control himself when confronted by Chung wearing a long scarlet dress, Ng assaults her and is promptly arrested, but his indictment is later dismissed on a technicality, and the three main characters (including Money Lo as a sympathetic social worker) converge on the workshop beneath the hostel for a climactic showdown which closes proceedings on a note of ABSOLUTE SCREAMING HYSTERIA!!
Judged alongside similar Asian atrocities, such as MEN BEHIND THE SUN (1987) or the infamous "Guinea Pig" series from Japan, RED TO KILL is either a fearless challenge to established cinematic limits or a reckless descent into the abyss, depending on your point of view. Photographed with stunning visual flair by Tony Mau and expertly edited by Choi Hung, the movie alternates scenes of naive sentimentality with eruptions of graphic horror, taking time to establish Chung's beauty and innocence before unleashing the forces of hell against her. But while Chung and Lo are dignified in adversity, Ng plays the villain as an unstoppable force of nature, literally throbbing with uncontrollable rage; his descent into complete psychosis during the hair-raising finale provokes a devastating rampage which is truly frightening to behold. Unsurprisingly, Ng has been typecast in villainous roles ever since.
But the filmmakers' bravura technique, coupled with an obstinate lack of moral restraint, makes it difficult to defend the film's worst excesses. The protracted rape scenes are designed as a visual spectacle, showcasing the humiliation of vulnerable female characters. Worse still, following the sexual assault on Chung (the movie's pivotal set-piece), the actress is involved in a shocking episode of self-mutilation which not only degrades the entire production, but seems deliberately contrived to test viewers' patience to breaking point. However, despite its questionable motives, the film is executed with such breathtaking cinematic gusto, it compels attention in a way that few other horror movies have managed before or since.
Director Tang continued his one-man assault on the boundaries of taste and decency with such inferior offerings as BROTHER OF DARKNESS (1994) and SEXY AND DANGEROUS (1996) before going 'legit' with a number of socially conscious dramas, beginning with Chinese MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1997), featuring Ben Ng and HARD-BOILED's Tony Leung Chiu-wai.
- Jan 14, 2005