Double Feature: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) & Raw (2016)

Time to move along with the next double feature in Halloween movie marathon month! The next two is a pair-up from production of Season 6 of Movies and Tea (yes, we’re very ahead in schedule) and its a pair-up of two international independent horror films which are unique in their own subgenre. The first is Iranian vampire film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and the next is French body horror film, Raw.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Director (and writer): Ana Lily Amirpour

Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marno, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Milad Eghbali

In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. – IMDB

Filmed in black and white, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a unique sort of vampire story set in a slum-like world where it tells a rather one of a kind love story. Everyone seems to be easily forgotten and invisible in Bad City and yet, in the shadows is a girl lurking at night who measures their bad roaming the lonely streets and waiting for the moment to claim the victims that she believes deserves to die. Its a subtle arthouse movie that is quite a movie experience.

The black and white tone adds to the entire horror experience even if the typical bloodiness of vampire movies isn’t the focus. In fact, the vampire titled only as The Girl really only shows her true nature as she stalks her victims in the gloomy night or as she has the sudden abrupt showing of her fangs and then attacks. A lot of it is fairly unexpected even in its rare occurrence for a vampire film and yet there’s something rather fun about this whole ordeal even if everything feels so unconventional of vampire movies.

In fact, just as unconventional as everything else, its the vampire that is the most unique. The Girl is a hip person who wants to catch up on the popular music as she goes through listening to music that becomes the movie’s soundtrack seamlessly while also going through Bad City’s street on a skateboard. Its obvious that she can control herself as one of the most scary scenes has to be when she encounters a kid that she questions whether he’s been a good boy and scaring him about the consequences of being bad. On the other hand, the surprise of meeting another lonely soul in Arash, the main male lead of the movie finds each other where its more about the bad things that they don’t know about each other and bonding from that through a feeling and attraction together which comes as a test with a final movie decision that wraps the movie up so nicely.

Raw (2016)

Raw

Director (and writer): Julie Ducournau

Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss

A young woman, studying to be a vet, develops a craving for human flesh. – IMDB

Body horror might not be my first choice in horror movies. In fact, Raw as been an experience to say the least where it was a little gut-wrenching in its disturbing and cannibalism elements. Except the root of the story wasn’t about the body horror as much as its a movie about the young woman Justine who realizes that when she is forced to eating raw rabbit kidneys during rush week as a part of the hazing ritual, that it opens up this new craving and nature that she doesn’t quite understand. It becomes even scarier when she realizes that the same cravings have appeared in her sister Alexia as well.

Justine’s journey through this single first week of school is definitely one that is eye-opening. Her character is one that is fascinating to watch as she dives down this rabbit hole as she first thinks she is having an allergic reaction because of eating meat and as it gets worse, she starts having almost addict-like reactions to craving raw meat from eating subs to raw chicken and finally to human flesh which opens up an entirely new door. However, it is one of the none human flesh eating bits that makes this movie that provides this film one of the most revolting moments as she coughs up an endless amount of her own hair after having a stressful chat with her professor. Whether its the new environment or the stress of all the hazing rituals or that she’s embracing a new self, Justine fights her cravings and tries to find a way to live with it where we see a completely different sort of reaction to how Alexia copes and its this contrast that makes for a movie that isn’t just about Justine but also about how this somehow bonds their relationship but perhaps also set them apart. Its not only her relationship with her sister that comes into play but also a confusing relationship with her gay male roommate that also makes for some odd attractions between the two.

Its an exhilarating and disturbing sort of journey as the reality and what feels like her hallucinations start to blend together with some very odd scenes (like some girl licking a guy’s eyeball). Its really the shocking final act as a whole with the last revelation that shows the danger of this craving and what it can all amount to while also the ending that pieces this whole story together as it reveals the “why” to all that has happened inside of her. Raw might be sold as a body horror but in reality, its a much deeper experience, almost a character study that makes this one such a memorable movie.

That’s it for this double feature!
A little more of an indie horror double feature!
Have you seen these movies? Thoughts?

Triple Feature: Look Out, Officer! & Doubles Cause Troubles & The Mad Monk

We’ve been doing double features for a while and I just couldn’t figure out how to break up these three films so I decided to keep them together. Welcome to the very long ago but finally revisited for now Triple Feature. A long description for just a sporadic segment to say the least. However, Stephen Chow and 80s/90s Hong Kong Comedy is what I like. It had a lot of charm and is witty and fun for the most part. Other than Look Out, Officer!, the other two are first time viewings. All of them can be found on Netflix (Canada), if you have another version of Netflix then you will have to see if its there.

Its a longer post so let’s check it out!

Look Out, Officer (1990)

look out officer

Director: Sze Yu Lau

Cast: Stephen Chow, Bill Tung, Stanley Sui-Fan Fung, Vivian Chen, Kong Fong, Siu-Wai Mui

After police officer Biao is murdered, his soul cannot be at rest for his murder has been written off as a suicide. Therefore the heavens send him back to Earth as a spirit to find his ‘savior’ who will help him clear his name. Sing, a rookie officer, is the savior and in return for finding Biao’s killer, Biao must get him a girlfriend and a promotion. – IMDB

Look Out Officer is one of the earlier films in Stephen Chow’s filmography coming right after 1989’s Saint of Gamblers that gave him the main character and revealing that he was able to be funny. This is one of the rare few movies where he carries the movie with other comedic actors instead of his partner of crime, Man-Tat Ng. However, it delivers so well. In some ways, its absolutely absurd and silly but there are some great moments that land well. Plus, it adds in a supernatural and crime element to the story. The effects are pretty much dated and fairly laughable but being a comedy, it just adds in to the great moments. To be honest, I actually forgot about some of the supporting and cameo roles here and how they were part of this movie but has gone through the years to bigger and better things in different areas of entertainment.

Perhaps because this was one of the handful of Stephen Chow movies that I watched when I was young that there is a nostalgic love that I have for it. However, something here works well although it does merge itself well with having a decent knowledge of the Hong Kong society especially with their emphasis on the crimes and the undercover part. Its not a perfect movie but a truly entertaining one as it works something like the spirit helping him, Biao is something like the genie to Aladdin who has the ability to destroy his plans if he so wishes. Bill Tung and Stanley Fung are both incredible actors on their own and both have a decent career so their presence definitely adds onto the overall success of the film to help some of the jokes here land and for Stephen Chow to work together with.

Doubles Cause Troubles (1989)

doubles cause troubles

Director (and writer): Jing Wong

Cast: Carol DoDo Cheng, Maggie Cheung, Wilson Lam, Pak-Cheung Chan

When the tenant in their flat dies under suspicious circumstances, two bickering cousins are forced to navigate both sides of the law. – Netflix

Before Maggie Cheung got all serious with her acting role choices, she did a lot of comedic acting roles in the 80s and 90s films. On the topic of Stephen Chow from before, she did actually play a love interest for Stephen Chow in All’s Well That Ends Well. In Doubles Cause Troubles, we have Maggie Cheung playing opposite talented actress Dodo Cheng who honestly is known for her humor and her overall empowering presence. Both of these ladies held their own as they played cousins bickering and eventually having to work together, realizing that they have a pretty good connection. In all the random silliness they get caught into for this, the focus here may be the crime elements and the other characters all hilarious to watch as well, especially Pak-Cheung Chan, however, they are the stars here as their presence is undeniable. They are the show.

Doubles Cause Troubles is a little over the top but the movie is a typical Jing Wong with a lot of signature comedic style that Stephen Chow films have also. His writing and directing is incredibly on point. There are so many familiar faces in this film, especially if you are familiar with the Hong Kong film industry. Especially Wilson Lam, who I’ve heard has been recently spotted coming back out of the woodwork to acting again. He was the non-comedic element that kept the film grounded in the crime element. The plot is a little everywhere as it masks the bickering for love and the crime elements of who is trustworthy. Its saving grace is how easily its two leading ladies can deliver all the jokes and make it an overall enjoyable experience packed with laugh out loud moments.

The Mad Monk (1993)

the mad monk

Director: Siu-Tung Ching & Johnnie To

Cast: Stephen Chow, Maggie Cheung, Man-Tat Ng, Anita Mui, Michael Wai-Man Chan

Internationally proclaimed comic genius Stephen Chow must change the lives of radiant prostitute Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, filthy beggar Anthony Wong, and a killer in this heavenly comedy directed by masterful new wave filmmaker Johnnie To. – IMDB

A double feature for Stephen Chow and Maggie Cheung in this segment, what are the chances, right? Suffice to say that I’m a big fan of Stephen Chow but even he has films that I don’t quite like so much and The Mad Monk definitely falls into that one. Its not exactly the jokes or the acting that I don’t like but rather the overall sillier and dumber approach here that gives off this off-hilter humor that I’m not a big fan of. There are some too over the top moments than preferred. The Mad Monk lacks in terms of being more unique.

I feel bad saying that mostly because the talented Siu-Tung Ching and Johnnie To paired up to co-direct this film. Siu-Tung Ching comes off making 3 movies each for The Swordsman and A Chinese Ghost Story, which I have a little memory of but have never revisited. While Johnnie To had come off of working on Justice My Foot with Stephen Chow, which happens to be one of my faves as well, its shocking to think that maybe this film might have worked if I was younger or discovered it when I was younger. It does have some strong cast here aside from the ones mentioned before like Anthony Wong who played one of the three people he need to save. Anthony Wong can be a funny man but he has some dramatic roles as well and is a very well-rounded actor.

Its hard to fault anything here because I think the movie delivered as it had wanted to. Everything fit together except my mindset and comedy preference and that usually is the most subjective element to making comedies.

God of Cookery (original title: 食神, 1996)

Back in the 2018 opening post, I talked about injecting more foreign films with a particular focus to catching up and revisiting Hong Kong cinema. I’ve been thinking about a Foreign Friday segment for a good while (years probably) but never found the motivation. We just passed our 7th blogiversary here and its a fine time to embrace what I truly love. Hong Kong cinema was what started my journey into movies and so it makes sense to make it a much bigger presence here. With that said, the rigidness of when to post on a particular day is still on the back of my mind but maybe I’ll get that going once I get back into a groove of reviewing Hong Kong cinema.

To kick things off (and mostly because, I had a chat about it with AC Film Club HERE) is 1996 comedy by Stephen Chow, God of Cookery.

God of Cookery (1996)

god of cookery

Director: Stephen Chow

Cast: Stephen Chow, Karen Mok,  Vincent Kok, Man-Tat Ng, Stephen Au, Nancy Sit, Kar-Ying Law, Suet Lam

The most renowned and feared chef in the world loses his title of God of Cookery because of his pompous attitude. Humbled, he sets out to reclaim his title. – IMDB

God of Cookery happens somewhere in the middle of Stephen Chow’s successful 90’s career. I would call him the Jim Carey of Hong Kong because his humor is very much in line with how Jim Carey would be. Its absurd and nonsensical and the foundations of what is called “mo lei tau comedy”. However, Stephen Chow’s humor might be lost in translation at times however he excels at making up for it with his comical expressions. Coming from myself who grew up with Stephen Chow and speak Cantonese rather fluently, I can definitely appreciate his humor more than the Western world however, as we’ve seen with both Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, he’s a talented comedic actor and while those films differ slightly from his Hong Kong career, it definitely should be ones that will give you an entry point to look at his older works and see if you can find the appreciation for it that I have. The God of Cookery is a nice place to start. He shows off his love for Hong Kong, combines elements of food and martial arts and shows off his successful pairing with Man-Tat Ng who is a partner in crime for many of his 90’s movies. At the same time, you see the likes of Karen Mok and for those more familiar with the older Hong Kong movies, some other talents sneak in there both as cameos and supporting roles.

god of cookery

I’m not going to lie that God of Cookery did take a second viewing to love it more. There is a lot of silliness here and it does get very over the top. Just take for example that the the arrogant cook that starts off the movie has some incredibly insensitive comments meant as humor followed by a rough treatment of the people around him. However, it also emphasizes the character here, also called Stephen Chow. However, the God of Cookery does get dethroned by his arrogance and picks himself back up with a nonsensical product called Pissing Beef Balls and a ragtag group of Temple Street vendors which are funny and awkward in each of their own ways. Alongside of that,there are some funny cameos from some known names in the Hong Kong industry like Nancy Sit and Kar Ying Law who have been around for a while that take on a nice comedic character.

However, the charm of the film does go to the God of Cookery himself and his female counterpart, Turkey (played by Karen Mok). The friendship that started it off and how he realizes her admiration from him and his distaste towards her because of her disfigured face does make for some over the top humor here. Of course, there is a decent superficial element to this as while Stephen Chow does fall for the character eventually, the added bonus is that she has made herself pretty in a turn of events. However, the quirky character that Turkey is makes for some fun bits as she bursts out in a familiar Cantonese song that talks about loyalty, friendship and comraderie, A lot of Stephen Chow’s movie humor is within his dialogue and his puns that will get lost with the western audience unfamiliar with language however, there is also a decent bit of unspoken humor just through his funny reactions and expressions.

god of cookery

Odd, quirky, absurdity and over the top humor is what Stephen Chow movies are about. It captures both the characters and has a rather light-hearted journey of redemption in many cases. The creativity and the dialogue is actually quite vulgar however it also hits a lot of the essence of the Cantonese language and its crafty and clever use. Stephen Chow and Karen Mok are fantastic is this. While I do have to say that even as a fan, it took me a second viewing to fully appreciate it, there is quite a bit to love and enjoy if this is a type of humor that appeals to you. As I always say, humor and comedy is very different for everyone so it really depends on what you like.