Graphic rape-horror tests audience endurance to the limit
Libretio | 04/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
RED TO KILL
(Hong Kong - 1994)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
Though Chinese cinema has always demonstrated a morbid fascination with violence and bloodshed - from the vintage horror films of Maxu Weibang through to Chang Cheh's splattery kung fu pictures of the 1970's - it wasn't until the early 90's that Hong Kong horror movies secured their strongest foothold within mainstream culture. Following the unexpected success of gruesome 'true crime' dramas DR. LAMB (1992) and THE UNTOLD STORY (1993) - both helmed by Danny Lee Sau-yin (Chow Yun-fat's cop nemesis in John Woo's THE KILLER) - the former colony was subsequently deluged by a wave of confrontational 'Category III' (Adults Only) movies, spearheaded by the work of controversial director Billy Tang Hin-shing. 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 sudden death of her parents, a mentally handicapped young woman (Lily Chung Suk-wai) is remanded to the care of a hostel for the disabled, where she falls prey to 'kindly' caretaker Ben Ng Ngai-cheung, a musclebound hulk whose charming demeanor belies his true nature: Traumatized by a childhood incident in which his mother slaughtered his father and brother with a meatcleaver, drenching him in blood, Ng's murderous psychosis is triggered by the color 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 Man-yee as a sympathetic social worker) converge on the workshop beneath the hostel for a climactic showdown which closes proceedings on a note of 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 Gin-fai 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 with all the subtlety of a leering freak show. Worse still, following the sexual assault on Chung which constitutes 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 popular potboilers like 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.
Unforgiving in every respect
Indyrod | Indianapolis, IN USA | 02/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, let me tell you, this is NOT a date movie. This is the most brutal graphic rape movie I have ever seen, and also one that lingers in your mind long after it is over. For me, that's exactly what I want when I see a movie, one that leaves a lasting impression no matter how difficult the impression might be. I loved this movie, because it is very very well made, and the acting performances are incredible. Yes, the rapes are unforgiving in every respect, and the misery throughout the film is almost difficult to watch at times. This is not a gory movie, except for the last ten minutes, it is a very disturbing movie and it does have a fair amount of nudity, however it really needs to. "The Untold Story" and "Ebola Syndrome" offset much of the carnage with humor, but "Red to Kill" has absolutely NOTHING to smile about. It is totally and brutally serious from the first frame to the extremely nasty ending. The story is pretty simple, a psycho-rapist is on the loose and he's going after a mentally retarded young dancer. In the second graphic rape of the movie he does the deed to the young lady. Enter a female social worker who tries to help the victim, and dreams up a plan to get even with the rapist after he gets off in court because of a stupid technicality. Her plan succeeds to a certain extent, but not like she planned it, and the rapist comes after her full force. The actor who plays the rapist is absolutely sensational, and I might add, the musical score is perfect. The music adds so much to the all ready existing tension from all the horrific acts. The actress who plays the retarded girl is also amazing, one of the best performances on film you will ever see. To end this, this is a must-see movie for fans of this genre, and I'm just getting started myself. Not the gore associated with the two previous Cat III movies I watched, but something even more terrible and unrelenting, and an uneasy feeling that will not leave you anytime soon after you see it. "Red to Kill" is flatout a good movie, even considering the subject matter. I highly recommend it."
Whoa!!!!!!!! I wasn't expecting this!!
Indyrod | 06/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Man, what psychotic directed this movie??!?!? That was all i could think after viewing this piece of exploitative Cat III sleaze.
As I believe someone in another review said, it is kind of hard to judge this film because, in a way, it is very well directed. I think the director really got what he was looking for and communicated it to the audience. The psycho is a terrifying piece of work. He comes right through the screen.But watching a muscle bound Ben Ng morph into a bald-head supervillain rapist makes for uncomfortable viewing. I've seen many many hard films and I have to say I was a little disturbed by this one.
For those who haven't seen it yet, all I have to say is: watch it at your own risk and don't watch it with anyone who isn't into horror-shock or else they'll think YOU are a real wacko."
tropicalzombie | MN | 05/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Oustanding performance, and story line. I recommend this movie to anyone looking for the best in horror movies. Movie scenes at it best and the story line is great. Just the final action scene of the movie makes your money worth. Only one negative aspect; the subtittles are paste into the movie and been the DVD version it could have more features like director comments, actors profiles, ect."