The last time the Pang Brothers scored a hit was in 2006 with fantasy horror yarn, Re-cycle. Their collaborations have fared better than their solo offerings, but with The Detective, Diary and Abnormal Beauty under his belt, Oxide is the more reliable of the two. Danny has made some real clunkers along the way, including snooze-fest Forest Of Death and In Love With The Dead. There's no doubting the visual prowess of either brother, but when it comes to great storytelling, fan favourites like The Eye and Bangkok Dangerous are fast becoming distant memories.
Psycho-thriller Fairy Tale Killer is written and directed by Danny Pang, in collaboration with Thai director of photography Decha Srimantra (The Eye, Chocolate). In Lau Ching Wan (Mad Detective), Fairy Tale Killer has found a strong lead actor, but Danny also casts Wang Bao Qiang (Blind Shaft), Elanne Kwong (The Child's Eye), Elena Kong (Vengeance) and Lam Suet (Kung Fu Hustle) in supporting roles. Children's stories and horrifying murders walk hand in hand in the latest release from Terror Cotta, available on U.K. shores for the first time this month.
Lau Ching Wan (Life Without Principle) stars as the troubled cop on the case, while Wang Baoqiang (Mr. Tree) becomes the deranged killer responsible for the bizarre and bloody deaths. The story kicks off when Inspector Wong arrests a seemingly disturbed man confessing to a brutal murder reminiscent of a children's fable. The only problem is, the supposed victim is still very much alive. The perpetrator is dismissed as a crank and released, but days later, the victim turns up dead with rocks stuffed inside his open stomach.
Wong realises he has let a dangerous killer go free and becomes obsessed with tracking him down, while simultaneously covering up the mistakes he has made along the way. Wong neglects his family, blames his colleagues for everything that goes wrong, and pretty much acts like an arsehole, trying to catch a killer who is always one step ahead. More and more grisly murders take place, paying homage to Cinderella, The Red Shoes and Hansel & Gretel, but Wong continues to act like a cock. Hating on his autistic son, ignoring his hot wife, and dropping his colleagues in it at every given opportunity.
Lau Ching Wan is a great actor, but Inspector Wong is a mystifying protagonist. Most movies, particularly horror movies, rely on a connection between the audience and the so called 'good guy', so that we are sympathetic to his cause for the rest of the picture. Wong is a horrible person, disengaging and unashamedly cruel at every turn. At no point did I want him to survive the ordeal, and that's a terrible position to find yourself in when you're watching a horror movie. I was hoping there would be some kind of redemption as the movie progressed, and in some ways I guess there was, but the turnaround is unconvincing, and Wong remains the least likeable of screen heroes.
There are some nice ideas floating about, but Danny fails to capitalise on the interesting elements of the screenplay. Wong's son suffers from autism, as does the film's villain, and early revelations suggest a connection between Wong and his adversary. This could have been a fascinating development had it been handled correctly, but Danny has other objectives in mind, and the chosen course is far less enticing than the one that's suggested. As are the villains of the piece; both creepy and compelling as we're introduced to them for the first time. The more time we spend with them, however, the less interesting they become. Our two perpetrators would have held my interest longer had they remained enigmas, but Danny feels the need to explain everything in as much detail as possible, taking away the intrigue of the opening act.
Fairy Tale Killer isn't without its charm. The film has a solid premise, even if the revelations fail to shock in the way that they should. Suspension of disbelief comes in handy, but at least the production values and sound design distract from an otherwise underwhelming endeavour. It's dark, it's dirty, and with Danny Pang behind the camera Fairy Tale Killer sure look great at times. Unfortunately, visual panache could never make up for the films all too apparent failings. Performances are strong, even if character development is found wanting, and the Pang Brothers continue to frustrate in terms of competent storytelling. It's never boring though, uninspired for sure, but there's just enough style over substance to keep you from closing the book on it.
Hardly the return to form we were hoping for, this is unexceptional horror hokum at best, but compared to some of Danny Pang's other solo efforts, Fairy Tale Killer comes with an almost happy ending. AW