Sunday, July 10, 2011

Devil's Woman (1996)

In an attempt to escape a life of being brutalized by directors for no gain in fame, actress May (Cammy Choi) makes a (not exactly voluntary) pact with a mysterious black magician. Before she's allowed to become successful, though, the sorcerer magics a spider under her skin and uses her as his private magical assassin, first making her sex a doctor to death by dehydration through sperm loss, then having her kill a nurse with an evil kitty. It all has something to do with our magician's wish to find a proper body to reincarnate his wife in, or something of that sort. I think. These murders - and others the audience doesn't get to see - do come to the attention of the police.

Investigator in charge is "Baldhead" Lam Kwok-kong (inevitably for the hairless in Hong Kong, played by Elvis Tsui), who has his own troubles to begin with, for ever since a dead foetus spattered on him during a hostage situation that ended badly, Lam has visions of death that'll later come true. These visions will not be much of a help for our hero when the mysterious sorcerer decides to hinder the police by enchanting Lam with a permanent erection and thoughts of rape. Fortunately, Lam's partner Cheung Si-man (Ivy Leung) and her magically adept Granny (Helena Law) - coming complete with child ghost companions - are there to help him out.

So yes, as the random assortment and sheer amount of never dramatically developed stuff I just mentioned (and the amount of stuff I didn't mention - I've left out the part of the plot concerning a female police physician explaining Elvis's visions with his lack of a girlfriend "to lighten his pressure", just as an example) might hint at, this is very much your typical CATIII black magic movie, just with less puking of maggots and worms (only a spider was harmed during the production of this film, it seems), and less sex, nudity and rape than you'd expect. Don't worry, director Norman (or Otto) Chan Hok-Yan isn't mad enough to include no nudity at all in his sleazy horror movie, but he does show a certain degree of restraint in this respect - at least for a CATIII film. I also have to add that the film's definition of rape seems to include consensual sexual activity too - I honestly don't know what to make of that.

Anyhow, what Devil's Woman lacks in maggots and breasts, it tries to make up for in the expected confusing, shoddy plotting - clearly made up as the production went along - that not only pulls its focus randomly from one character to the next (I imagine depending on who of the cast members was available on a given day), but also keeps some important developments off-screen and prefers to have characters explain them to each other and the audience.

On the other hand, Chan uses the parts of the running time he frees up this way not only to tell a lot of dick and sperm jokes, and show Elvis Tsui making frightening "I have an erection" grimaces, but is also quite fond of filling them with the sort of insane shit one hopes for from this kind of movie: so there's a killer cat (doubled by a puppet when it comes to dying, surprisingly enough given the well-known Hong Kong disregard for animal rights) conquered by a microwave oven, a door to hell opening up in Elvis Tsuis's bed (that part might be realism and not insane shit, though), Elvis fighting his erection through the power of prayer (when Elvis Tsui prays, not only erections flee, but the light turns red, too, I've now learned), Elvis gaining the power to fight evil because his virginal partner gives him parts of her blood to drink, and so on, and so on.

Devil's Woman is not - I'm sure everyone still reading is now gasping with surprise - what you'd call a good movie, hell, some people wouldn't even call it a movie at all, but I found it difficult not to succumb to its threadbare charms, the film's tendency to just make up one disconnected piece of craziness after the other without a care for dramatic arcs, or filmic rhythms, or sense, or anything other of all that fancy film school stuff. It's even easier to fall for the film's dubious virtues because it feels quite good-natured, as if nobody involved hates all of humanity and wants it to die right this second, in what just might be a first for a CATIII film. Which might be a weird thing to say about a film where a dead foetus lands on the protagonist, but there you have it.


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