8. Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky (Ngai Choi Lam, 1991)
“Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky” is based on a Japanese anime movie and has reserved a place in cinema history for being one of the first movies that was rated Adults Only, exclusively due to its violent scenes, although it did not incorporate any erotic ones.
In 2001, all prison facilities are privatized. Riki, who was convicted for murdering a Yakuza who was responsible for his girlfriend’s death, arrives in one. Soon he realizes that a gang of four runs the particular prison, each responsible for a sector, and the corrupt guards are in a league with them. Riki cannot tolerate their oppression, and eventually has to face them. However, in his path stands most of the other convicts and his mission soon becomes the type of one-against-all.
Ngai Choi Lam directs a genuine splatter film, where the script, the direction, and the acting solely exist to provide a background for the gory action scenes. Those, however, are surprisingly impressive and graphic, completely capturing the aesthetics of the original ones from the anime. Bloodbaths, torture, superhuman powers, impressive kung fu fights and the evident low budget aesthetics amount to one of the foremost extreme films of its era.
Louis Fan Siu Wong, who plays Riki, was only 18 at the time and eventually managed to become a star in Hong Kong, appearing in movies like “Ip Man”, despite the fact that he does not act at all in this particular film.
9. The Eternal Evil of Asia (Man Kei Chin, 1995)
A group of four men headed by Bon and Kong travel to Thailand to indulge themselves in sexual tourism, with the sole exception of Bon, who is engaged to Kong’s sister May. While there, they run into a battle among wizards and end up helping one of them, named Laimi, who invites them to stay in his house. While there, however, a tragic sex incident occurs that concludes with Laimi’s sister dying. The magician swears revenge and pursues them to Hong Kong.
Man Kei Chin directs a film that is a nonstop succession of sex, violent action, preposterous humor and special effects, since it lacks any kind of coherence or logic. The sole advantage of his work lies with the atmosphere, which, particularly in the Hong Kong scenes, is quite eerie.
With scenes like the one where Kong’s head transforms into a huge penis, and the plethora of sex scenes that occur in the air, this film is trash cinema at its best.
10. Ebola Syndrome (Herman Yau, 1996)
Probably one of the most offensive entries on the list, “Ebola Syndrome” revolves around Kai San, a fugitive who ends up in Johannesburg after killing his boss and his wife. While there, he finds work in a restaurant. The actual plot initiates when his boss travels with him to an Ebola-infected village to buy pork meat. While there, Kai rapes and kills a local woman and contracts the disease.
However, he appears to be immune to it and soon after, he embarks on a killing spree that begins with raping, killing and dismembering his boss and his wife, and serving them as hamburgers to customers, passing the virus onto them.
Herman Yau directs a film so despicable that it eventually becomes funny, although in a highly unconventional fashion. The racist notions, the constant brutality, and the graphic depictions of hideous actions dominate most of the movie, while the main character is one of the most preposterously evil ever depicted on screen.
However, behind all the extremity hides a surprisingly well made and paced film that excels in terms of narration, building the agony for the frenzied finale while retaining its theme for the whole of its duration. Lastly, Anthony Wong is great in the protagonist role, elaborately portraying a genuinely evil character.
11. Bio Zombie (Wilson Yip, 1998)
Kind of a parody of “Dawn of the Dead” and “Braindead”, “Bio Zombie” is a comedic approach to the zombie genre.
The largely incoherent script revolves around two low-level triads, Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee, who sell bootleg DVDs at a stall and eventually are caught in a situation where a soft drink has been mixed with a bio-weapon that turns people into bloodthirsty zombies.
Wilson Yip directs a hilarious film where the tone constantly switches from drama to horror to comedy while retaining many splatter notions, including graphic violence, cannibalism, and many images of bodily fluids. The film, however, is very entertaining and even artful at moments, particularly due to the chemistry between Jordan Chan and Sam Lee, who feature in the protagonist roles.
12. The Eye (Pang Brothers, 2002)
Twenty-year-old Mun, a violinist living in Hong Kong, has been blind since the age of two. After receiving an eye cornea transplant, she starts seeing some bizarre entities that seem to predict violent deaths.
After an incident, she reveals the visions to her doctor and he, not believing her, suggests a visit to his psychologist nephew, Dr. Wah. In the beginning he is also skeptical, but after awhile, he decides to escort her to Thailand, where Ling, the donor, used to live. There, they learn that the girl had psychic powers that allowed her to predict deaths.
“The Eye” is one of the rare cases in the genre where the special effects are used to strengthen the artistry of the film, rather than to impress and scare. Pang Brothers managed to retain the agony throughout the film’s duration by frequently changing the rhythm, with the adrenaline hitting red in one scene and total calmness taking over in the next.
Angelica Lee is astonishing in the protagonist role, giving a minimalistic performance that benefits the most from her distinct glances. Furthermore, the impressive cinematography and editing, the horrifying special effects, and sound and the smart dialogue make for a true masterpiece of the genre, and an utterly horrifying experience.
13. Dumplings (Fruit Chan, 2004)
Initially part of the compilation horror production “Three… Extremes”, “Dumplings” was expanded into a feature film.
The script is based on a novel by Lillian Lee, who also penned the film, and revolves around Mrs. Li, a former popular actress who watches her looks fail along with her career. Furthermore, her marriage is also in shambles, with her husband, a successful businessman, constantly having affairs with younger women.
In her despair, Li turns to a cook named Mei, who cooks dumplings filled with a secret ingredient that makes their consumers eternally young. Li eventually learns the terrible secret of the recipe, but she cannot stop since the dumplings seem to be working.
The film’s biggest asset lies with the fact that it managed to portray horror as something normal, focusing on the trend that everyone must look as young and beautiful as possible, a sentiment that appears even more fiercely in the entertainment industry. Fruit Chan’s great direction along with Christopher Doyle’s astonishing cinematography are the main ingredients of the accomplishment, with the latter additionally presenting images that manage to retain their beauty despite their extremity.
All of the three protagonists, Miriam Yeung as Mrs Li, Tony Leung as Mr Li and Bai Ling as Mei, are magnificent in their respective parts.
14. Dream Home (Pang Ho Cheung, 2010)
Cheng Li Sheung is a career woman who has been working two jobs in order to take care of her sick father and to fulfill her goal of buying her dream house. However, when she discovers that her accumulated money is not enough to buy the house, she embarks on a killing spree in the neighborhood in order to lower the house’s price.
Pang Ho Cheung presents the story through flashbacks that reach up to Cheng’s childhood, explaining, up to a point, her murderous resolve to buy this specific house. In that fashion, he even included some social elements in the picture.
However, these elements take up a very small portion of the movie, since for its most part, it is a gory horror film that indulges in all kinds of graphic and violent murders, including neck stabbings, toilet injuries and intestine butchering. The astonishing thing is that Cheung even managed to include some black comedy elements in this madness, although not many are going to laugh while watching this film.
Josie Ho in the protagonist role gives a great performance, being one of the film’s biggest assets.
15. Rigor Mortis (Juno Mak, 2013)
Co-produced by Takashi Shimizu, the creator of the “Ju On” franchise, and functioning as a tribute to the “Mr. Vampire” film series with many of its cast also featured here, “Rigor Mortis” is also the debut of Juno Mak, a prominent singer-actor in the Hong Kong scene.
Siu Ho, a former horror film star, suffers from severe depression over his failed career and the loss of his family, which leads him to a failed suicide attempt. After these acts, he finds himself living in an estate for retirees that is eventually proved to be haunted. The estate also accommodates housewife Feng, seamstress Auntie Mui, and two Taoist masters, canteen operator Brother Yau, and Gau. Eventually, a vampire appears in the building.
“Rigor Mortis” features a not-so-impressive combination of psychological thriller and horror film, particularly due to the somewhat confusing storyline. However, the impressive production values and particularly the stunning visuals make up for the script’s lack of detail, along with the cast, which consists of 80’s film stars, including Chin Siu Ho, Kara Hui and Anthony Chan.
The usual humor of similar films from the former decades is missing here, but Juno Mak compensates with plenty of profanity, which becomes quite amusing when uttered from veteran actors.
Author Bio: Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic who focuses on the cinema of East Asia. He enjoys films from all genres, although he is a big fan of exploitation. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.