Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Well on his way to becoming Hong Kong's King of Category III movies, director Cash Chin Man-kei (SEX AND ZEN II, THE ETERNAL EVIL OF ASIA, THE FRUIT IS SWELLING) strikes again with this inspired amalgam of elements from Kuei Chih-hong's THE KILLER SNAKES (1974) and Frank Henenlotter's BRAIN DAMAGE (1988). Whether working as an office boy or helping out in his grandpa's herbal shop, homely Min (Samuel Leung Cheuk-moon, a familiar face in goo wak jai movies, getting a rare lead role here) suffers non-stop abuse and humiliation and can only satiate his sexual appetites with pornographic VCDs or by watching the horny couple in a neighboring apartment "play rape." Min wants to be a pharmacist himself but because of his malevolent past (revealed in a series of untranslated Chinese newspaper headlines that tell of numerous people being poisoned), the grandfather refuses to pass on the tricks of the trade. One evening, while milking venom from a cobra, the old man is accidentally killed, giving Min free access to all of his secret concoctions. After mixing together a bunch of different ingredients, he slips the brew to the woman down the hall. She promptly turns into an overheated nymphomaniac who all but rapes him and, best of all, the next morning she has no memory of what happened. Min then tries it out on his boss Peter's bitchy mistress, Winnie (Sophie Ngan Chin-man), who is staying late to finish some reports. Soon after he has taken advantage of her, Winnie is in the hospital experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, and Min uses the situation to also slip the poison to Peter (Wong Chi-wung). Without regular doses of the drug, the victims experience excruciating pain and their bodies start to erode from the inside out. After repeatedly using the women for sex, Min demands $2 million in cash from his affluent boss and is also promoted to general manager of the company. However, power quickly destroys what few morals Min has left and not even his sympathetic co-worker Ling (Gwennie Tam Kwun-yee, a pretty Eurasian girl with good screen presence but no conspicuous acting ability) is safe.
Sophie Ngan Chin-man. Image courtesy Universe.
While not nearly as sordid or disturbing as THE KILLER SNAKES, the final third of NAKED POISON does take an effectively dark turn, with the cartoonish characters and comic "revenge of the nerd" overtones eclipsed by the brutality and depravity on display. However, Chin also undercuts the film at this point, via the introduction of Lui (Nelson Cheung Hok-yun), a mincing gay detective who is on to Min and convinces Ling to help him. The film never really recovers but NAKED POISON still offers up some refreshingly morbid thrills, making it a welcome change from the majority of HK horror pictures these days, which seem to be aimed primarily at junior high school students out on their first date. The English subtitles offer an eye-opening balance between the amusingly overwritten ("Drink while it's hot, it's efficacious") and the out-and-out bizarre ("Though I'm well dressed today, I just don't mind if it's stained by a maniac's brain"). HK censors made several small cuts in a couple of the sex scenes, though they tend to have a more damaging effect on the soundtrack than the visuals. The movie's Chinese title is a riff on the local name for Benny Chan Muk-sing's GEN-X COPS (Dut ging san yan lui or "Special Cops New People") and the eye-catching theatrical poster features a "never in The West" tagline trumpeting the fact that this is the first time Ngan "reveals two points" (appears topless).
NAKED POISON is available at Poker Industries.