Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Naked Poison

One film I probably should have included in Asia Shock (but deemed too cheeseball pervy at the time) is a Category III Hong Kong flick called Naked Poison (2000). On a second pass, it's actually an absorbing little piece of prurient pap from director Cash Chin. It concerns a horny young nerd named Min, a guy who looks like a Chinese version of Howard Stern/Joey Ramone/Guy who sang Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) with horn-rim glasses. He lives with his grandfather, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner in Kowloon, and is keenly interested in the aphrodisiacal and poisoning powers of grampa's potions (mostly made from snake and tarantula venom apparently). When grandpa suddenly falls victim to one of his own concoctions, Min inherits the business and starts mixing potions like a mad scientist. Soon women who scorned and belittled him are transformed into panting sex beasts by his magic mixtures. Needless to say, he wastes no time playing catch-up in the sexual arena. He also slow-poisons his abusive boss, doling out antidote piecemeal in exchange for a promotion and tons of dough. He even gets the girl of his dreams (played by mixed-race beauty Gwennie Tam). Unfortunately it's all a bit too much too soon for young Min, and before long he's plunged headlong into a bubbling green morass of murder and madness.

The film moves along at a nice clip and there's plenty of steamy sex scenes to hold your interest. Pretty much the entire cast dies in some horrible way, and the film retains that good old 80's/90's Category III flavor (unlike many a more slick, post-handover Hong Kong film). You can find a cheap HK disk of Naked Poison online, so if this sounds like your particular cup of poison, my advice is drink up!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Paradise Villa

One of the films I screened for Asia Shock but didn't review was a South Korean film called Paradise Villa (2001). I didn't consider it shocking enough to merit entry in the book, but nevertheless it has it's own unique charms. Essentially a slice-of-life film, the story takes place entirely within an apartment building (presumably in Seoul). For those interested in contemporary Asian culture, the film offers an intriguing fly-on-the-wall look at average Korean folks enjoying a weekend watching sports, drinking, screwing, visiting each other and generally relaxing. Eventually there is killing.

The film moves between a variety of characters and follows them as they interact with one another. Some know each other, some don't. The various plot strands intertwine, and a couple of them end in bloodshed (an accidental murder, a psychotic young man with a knife), but the whole affair is so low-key that the carnage is as matter-of-fact as watching the soccer match on telly. It is this deadpan, existential vibe that makes Paradise Villa an engaging experience. However, if you're not expecting it, looking instead for a more conventional slasher flick (as the film was marketed) you might be disappointed and a little bewildered.

So be advised. Enjoy Paradise Villa for what it is: a dispassionate look at the whole spectrum of human activity, from enjoying drinks with friends to deciding what to do with the dead body in your living room. People get up to all sorts of stuff, and there's a bit of everything in this film.