Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Time, once again, to look back at some of the films that have helped shape my love of Asian cinema. In tiny, easy to digest, nugget-like form. In Part IV we discover that man eating octopus isn't the same thing as man-eating octopus, martial arts movies can be really beautiful, lank haired demons are an unstoppable force of nature and The Twins, for a long time at least, were an unstoppable force of nature.

 Twins Effect ****


Huge media stars across Asia, not only are the girls annoyingly cute, they make the occasional movie on the side too (good, bad but never ugly). With a little help from Hong Kong legends Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen, and a knowing head-butt to Whedon's vampire slayer, the Twins kick and punch their way through two hours of damn fine entertainment.

Okay, so the girls can be a little too cute at times but we wouldn't expect anything less. Besides, this massive hit across Asia is fast, funny and full of fantastic fight sequences from some of the biggest stars in the industry today. And did I mention that the girls are cute!?! The face/off over a stuffed toy is a highlight of course, even if an overwhelming urge to hit the mute button does sneak up on you from time to time. Still, this is one of their better collaborations and worth two hours of your time. The guiltiest of guilty pleasures then. Enjoy.

The Spiral **
The original sequel to Hideo Nakata's masterpiece of modern horror remains something of a curiosity at best. Though it could never be described as a complete waste of time, it still manages to avoid anything and everything that made the first film so memorable.
A cheesy eighties score takes away most of the tension, there's a serious lack of concern for any of the characters involved and probably the greatest sin of all in modern horror, it just isn't scary! Maybe it's just me, but I think that kind of helps. Japanese audiences must have agreed because they pretty much demanded another entry in the series just to replace this one. You have seven days, don't waste your time on this.

The Eye *****

Before the Koreans invaded our homes (in a nice way), Hollywood was churning out the same old shit; high on tit-factor but low on titillation. Three key ingredients were escaping the protagonists thrusting blade; an intriguing premise, engaging characters and the ability to scare the crap out of everbody. Thank Lucifer that - for a time at least - Asia was producing the best of modern horror.
If you haven't watched VHS since Ringu, and you haven't been to the, um, water tank since Dark Water, this is for you. There was a time when The Pang Brothers could do no wrong. The remake was awful but don't let that put you off this wonderful movie, a true original with a killer ending to boot. It doesn't hurt to have Angelica Lee making your pack-up either. The lucky swine. As for Hollywood, hey, funbags work too...

Battle Royale *****

Let's face it, we didn't watch this movie for hugs and puppies. We wanted blood. Check. We wanted violence. Check. We wanted questionable moral values. Need I go on? Battle Royale succeeds in the fact that it actually lives up to the hype that surrounds it.
Yes it has violence, yes it has blood, and yes it has guts too. It's not just about Japanese schoolgirls running around in school uniform killing each another. There's a message there too, sandwiched between layers of social commentary and Japanese schoolgirls killing each other. A concept, sadly, part two failed to capitalise on. Everybody should have this film in their collection.

Hero *****

I've always been a big fan of Jet Li but his Hollywood output, much like that of Asia's other leading export, Jackie Chan, has never quite lived up to the Eastern counterparts that made his name. Similar in style to Crouching Tiger, Hero boasts a simple storyline with incredible martial arts action and an impressive - not to mention easy on the eye - cast of Asia's finest talent.
The thing that will stay with you longest though is the exquisite cinematography; Hero is quite simply one of the most beautiful films you will ever see. It's a feast for the eyes as the beautiful imagery washes over you. Jet may have turned his back on this sub-genre for now but we'll never forget the kind of film that made him a star. Hey, I didn't even mention Donnie Yen yet!

A Tale Of Two Sisters *****

Probably my favourite Asian horror movie and that's quite an achievement alongside Ringu, The Eye, Dorm and Dark Water. It plays out in a similar fashion to The Sixth Sense (stay with me), a slow burner that puts character and storyline ahead of cheap scares, before blowing you away with the kind of twist that Shyamalan has been missing of late. Every time that stings a little I watch Unbreakable again.
But even if you know how this one's going to end, the fine performances, moody setting and excellent direction should see you through two hours of fine entertainment. Hollywood has already butchered the remake so take the time to enjoy something quirky, frightening and truly original.

Ju-on ****

The Grudge is another tale about vengeful ghosts taking revenge on anyone who gets in their way. Ju-on succeeds because it ups the jump factor ten fold over the likes of Ringu and even The Eye, sadly though, where it gains sweaty palms it loses points for storyline and character. Unless you count the moody visuals. It's very hard to care about a character if all you get to know about them is their first name.
But hey, at the end of the day this is a real rollercoaster ride of a movie. You will jump, you will hide behind your girlfriend and you will be sure to watch the much-improved sequel. One of the best sequels ever made in the world of horror. But don't get me started on the remakes. The first one was fine but please, lets leave it at that shall we? Buffy, we salute you.

Natural City **

Like a one night stand but not exactly girlfriend material, Natural City is pretty on the outside but a confused and unlikeable mess on the inside. I really wanted to like this movie and for brief moments I did. The two female leads are engaging enough and the special effects are accomplished if indeed nothing new. A riff on Bladerunner then, and that's giving the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt; Natural City borrows heavily from many a science fiction movie.
In fact, there's very little natural about it. The two characters we're supposed to follow on this journey are so unlikeable I was left untouched, unmoved and uninterested. Another bad relationship that, fortunately, only lasts for two hours. Which is still longer than some of my... moving on.

Phone ****
Much like Sadako's final resting place, when exactly did the Asian horror well finally run dry? Ringu, The Grudge, One Last Call, Dark Water; they all have similar themes. Themes that start with long black hair and end in a severe case of calcium deficiency. Vengeful spirits out to raise Hell in the comfort of your living room; The Phone is no exception.
What is exceptional however is the fact that, though it looks like just another retread, The Phone remains consistently entertaining and frightfully creepy. Sure, it's all been done before, but if you still like Asian horror movies then there's no reason to suggest that you're not going to enjoy this familiar but freaky instalment of terror. The young child in particular is a joy to watch. The well may have run dry since, but at the time The Phone was the right call to make.

Old Boy *****

If you want to see a twist look no further, because Old Boy is one of the best examples of South Korean cinema and one of the coolest films ever made. Quentin Tarantino is a huge fan of this Korean master-class and it's not hard to see why. Violence? Check. Gangsters? Check. Dark vein of humour? Check. Man eating octopus? Check. Bat-sh*t crazy ending? Indeed.
Beautifully shot with performances to die for, not to mention one of the most jaw-dropping twists ever committed to film. It's hard to fault such an excellent waste of time. Near perfection, damn it.


  1. Great picks, although I am not familiar with The Spiral. Unless that's the alt title to Uzamaki? I've still not seen that one or Natural City-they just didn't appeal to me that much and it looks like you agree.

  2. The Spiral was the name of the novel that followed Ringu in the original trilogy of books. This came out shortly after the first film, but nobody liked it. Which is where Ringu 2 came in.