Day three of our Mayhem Horror weekend brought uniformly entertaining films across the board, from the retro Lovecraft adaptation Whispers in the Dark, through the über-serious A Horrible Way to Die and the silly Saint to a retrospective of the bonkers 70’s movie Theatre of Blood, but the highlight of the day, and perhaps the festival, was the Hong Kong movie, Revenge, A Love Story.
Someone is on the prowl, out for the blood of policemen, their pregnant wives and the forcefully removed bodies the their unborn children. It’s a series of truly shocking crimes, but what could drive a man to such ends? The answers could be as shocking as the crimes themselves.
Regular readers may remember around this time last year I gushed about a Hong Kong film that feature in the last Mayhem Festival. Dream Home was a shocking revelation of what future may be in store for a more daring Hong Kong film industry, it was serious, unflinching and gory.
Josie Ho, the star and producer of Dream Home, is now specialising in this type of fare and her company’s latest outing, Revenge: A Love Story, doesn’t disappoint.
Written by its star, Juno Mak, Revenge opens with a truly shocking crime, the murder and mutilation of a pregnant woman, the removal of her baby and the murder of her policeman husband; but not quite plumbing the depths of exploitation the film opts to keep the former crime off screen, only showing the end result on its discovery, which should be heartening to those of a sensitive nature… or maybe not.
As (what seems to be par for the coarse these days in Asian films) what starts out to a cat and mouse hunt for the killer is brought to a holt by a timely catching of the killer, we are left with no clue where the film will be heading from scene to scene, which brings an invigorating release from our assumptions, making the ensuing revelations all the more horrific.
Where the film’s major strengths lie are in the flashbacks. Starting out with the impression that NOTHING could justify such brutal crimes as the killer commits, the flashbacks unravel a story that bring you mighty close to sympathising with a man who cuts babies from the stomachs of their innocent mothers. It’s an uncomfortable sensation but the last thing you’d expect going in.
Josie Ho’s films to date have avoided the silliness that often permeate Hong Kong films, with an acting style and cold visuals more akin to the output of Japan or Korea. They are also thematically more ambiguous than the often on the nose stuff that comes out of Hong Kong; not that ‘on the nose’ makes for a bad film, it just helps separate Ho’s productions from the crowd.
It’s not perfect though; I feel it would have been better served by dropping the last ten or fifteen minutes, which add an arguably unnecessary twisted, almost secondary, climax to the film. And, in no way a reflection on the quality of Revenge, it must be stated that due to the less fantastical angle to the horror at work, it isn’t as much fun as Dream Home was to watch, in fact it would be apt to compare it to such films as The Chaser or I Saw the Devil, more a twisted crime movie than outright Horror.
Certainly not for everyone, but for those who enjoy unflinching violence and moral ambiguity it’s a pure winner.
B+ grade – for storytelling
B- grade – for acting
C grade – for visuals
B grade – for horror content
Overall grade – B
Watch the trailer.
Revenge, A Love Story has a UK release courtesy of Terracotta Distribution who also head-up the UK’s leading Asian film festival, The Terracotta Festival, based in London.