JANUARY 24, 2012
According to Grindhouse programmer Brian Quinn, The Eternal Evil Of Asia (Hong Kong: Nan yang shi da xie shu) was programmed second so I could make it to the New Beverly in time (after work) to count it for my HMAD. I don’t like to think I influence anyone’s decisions in any meaningful way about anything, but even if just a ruse to get me to come it was nice to hear. And it worked! I coffeed up and put off satisfying my Skyrim fix until after the movie (which resulted in me staying up until 4 am). Everybody wins.
Luckily the movie was worth the efforts; like most of the Hong Kong horror films he programs every other month or so, it’s a wonderfully batshit multi-genre effort that shifts gears and tone so often you might suspect that a few scenes were missing that would explain how it went from almost charmingly sweet to totally sleazy in between scenes. Eternal Evil is actually a rape-revenge film of sorts, but with an unabashedly silly approach that prompted my buddy Dan to remark that the film was the first to have a “slapstick rape” scene. Spoilers ahead!!!
Now, obviously this might strike many as insanely offensive, and I do not argue. While we usually laugh at the rampant misogyny, casual murders, and other “taboo” things that these films usually feature, the rape stuff is a bit out of place. Luckily they do as much as they can to “soften” the act – for starters, the rapist and his victim aren’t even in the same room. Our villain is a wizard who has suddenly taken a liking to the girlfriend of one of his intended victims, and the climax of the film is just him standing in a small room, completely naked and thrusting away, using his magic powers to “ghost rape” the girl who is miles away, hanging on a chandelier. Every now and then they use a CGI outline to show the ghost (it kind of looks like “Not Me” or “Ida Know” from "The Family Circus"), but most of the time the act is completely mimed (somewhat impressively so, to give the actors a weird compliment). Also, the girl is kind of allowing it, because the secret to stopping him lies in the moment of his orgasm, so once he lets it fly (again, he’s just thrusting at nothing!) she is able to overpower him. So that’s good. Still – weird way to end your otherwise “fun” horror comedy (there’s also a shorter, more “traditional” rape scene that is thankfully brief and mostly incoherent). I should note that this was part of a group of "Category III" films, which is their version of X-Rated, so they had to have SOMETHING to justify the restricted rating, but the goofy tone of the film was more like a PG-13 thing, which is what made it so awkward.
Another criticism I could direct at it is probably a waste of time, because it assumes that they care about theme or full circle storytelling or anything, but whatever. As we learn in a lengthy flashback, the reason this wizard is killing our protagonists one by one is because they “killed” his sister. However this is not really the case – what happened was, he prepared a love potion to make one of the guys fall in love with her, because that’s the sort of thing that wizards do for their little sisters. Unfortunately the spell is received not by her would-be lover but by his three pals. So they all fall in love with her at the same time, and (per the spell’s “rules”) she falls for them equally, and thus they engage in a fairly routine fourway where she doesn’t seem to be too upset about the whole thing. It’s only when the spell wears off that she gets freaked out, and when they try to explain, she accidentally falls and dies. Thus, it’s really HIS fault that all this shit happened (and hers, for requesting it in the first place), but this never really dawns on him. A better script would find a way to play with his misguided, unnecessary “revenge”. But instead we just get, well, “slapstick rape”.
Otherwise it’s pretty cool. I just spoiled the hell out of it but I like that they kept the back-story to themselves for a while, making it a bit of a mystery for a while. And the kills are wonderfully gonzo – the movie starts with one guy thinking everyone he sees is a zombie and ends up slaughtering his family/neighbors before falling to his death. I know that doesn’t SOUND particularly funny, but it’s shot in a very early Raimi/Jackson-esque way (weirdly angled close-ups, zooms, etc), with lots of splatter and a charmingly sarcastic little kid tossed into the mix. The scene also keeps trashing Cup O’Noodles for some reason, which is just amusing. Then there’s a great “cannibal” bit and other assorted silliness.
The best, however, has to be the scene somewhere in the middle of the movie where a guy makes a particularly common insult and is then cursed by taking on the shape of this particular insult. I won’t spoil it, but it’s nothing short of amazing, and it even builds – a sight gag on top of the sight gag. It’s actually one of several instances in the movie where you will be subjected to the writer’s fascination with the private areas of males and females – we’re given a lengthy discussion on the best way to fondle a scrotum, a girl questions if a vampire would use her used tampons to make tea (WTF?), and not all of the ghost sex is non-consensual – our hero gets ghost head during one scene set to an awesome/cheesy sax riff.
Plus it has the always fun translation errors, including one that literally changed the point of what was being said when they changed a “can’t” to a “can” (I forget the exact context). However the best was during the aforementioned guy who fell to his death. Our hero calls his girlfriend and breaks the news to her, and after a few somewhat amusingly confused lines, he busts out this classic: “His body was stabbed to death by 7 fluorescent lamps.” The movie also begins with a mostly useless prologue where they explain ghosts/enchanting (which gets explained over and over during the movie), featuring a little ghost kid watching a movie while the narrator tells us “Don’t offend him or take him to toilet”. And if reading subtitles aren’t your thing, you can always enjoy the awesome, geek-friendly mid-90s movie posters on display in the heroine’s beauty salon – Die Hard 3, Pulp Fiction, and… er, A Walk In The Clouds.
Mostly what I was impressed with was that it went on very few tangents. If you think of the movie as being about the rise and fall of a well-meaning wizard (like Anakin in the prequel trilogy!), everything is more or less related to that. Even the sillier bits like the heroine being teased by her friend about not knowing how to give a good hand job sort of fits in, given how she has to use her body to defeat the guy at the end. Most of these Hong Kong movies discard plot threads and start new ones throughout the entire runtime, so that they’re not even recognizable as the same film by the time they finish, so I have to give this one props for at least telling an easily summarized story. Had they reigned in the rapey-ness of the third act it would probably be my favorite of the bunch.
Luckily, for once you can judge for yourself; while most of these movies are so obscure that they don’t even have basics like “cast” listed on their IMDb page, this one is actually available on Netflix Instant! And it’s got the same subtitles that we had, so you can enjoy all of the same crazy errors, with the added bonus of rewinding to make sure you actually read it right. Of course, watching in this manner won’t be nearly as enjoyable as seeing it with a good crowd, but at least you’ll know for sure I’m not making the movie up (something I could probably get away with at this point).
What say you?