Bat sin fan dim ji yan yuk cha siu bau (The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story) Reviews
The film follows the story of Wong Chi Hang, a notorious serial killer in 1970?s Macau. Wong Chi Hang has three loves in life, gambling, killing, and grinding up corpses to serve as tasty meat filling in his delicious barbecue pork buns. Chi Hang, a criminal wanted for murder after killing someone in another part of China, flees to Macau, where he unceremoniously becomes the owner of a restaurant entitled The Eight Immortals. The restaurant?s original owner has disappeared along with his family? it doesn?t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened to them. The cops are soon on his tail, led by the prostitute courting Officer Lee, a tomboy female cop trying to get the attention of her co-pigs, and a couple of other generic silly cops.
One of the major problems with the film is that it is so uneven. For a movie about a dude who kills the fuck out of people and grinds them into dumpling filling, the movie feels ridiculously light as the group of cops engages in Police Academy style hijinks and banter. They eventually tone it down a little bit, but it?s kind of an odd decision to make to inject a little humor in what is clearly a dark story. I don?t know what to be more disturbed by, the lighthearted approach the co-directors took with the film or the disgusting and over the top brutality with which Wong Chi Hang dispatches his mostly undeserving victims.
The other huge problem with the film is how poorly it is put together. The film?s entire crux relies on the fact that there is an ?untold story? somewhere in the film. The untold story is of course what happened to the original owner of the restaurant and his family. The last half hour to thirty minutes of the film focuses on the cops? efforts to figure out exactly what happened to the family? even though they?ve got a sack full of body parts that screams ?missing family? sitting in their evidence locker. The ideas behind the structure and form of the film are off. Instead of taking the true crime direction, the directors turn the film into a Shakespearian like tragedy where the big payoff is one hellacious slaughter and the reveal to the police that they have in fact eaten the remains of humans. This all may seem like spoiler material, but any five year old that has ever seen a horror flick would be able to guess all of this stuff and it?s basically thrown in your face during the film. The Untold Story deserves credit for trying to take a non-traditional approach to the serial killer flick, but it?s light-hearted tactics leave a little to be desired.
The two directors, Danny Lee and Herman Yau, make some pretty solid decisions throughout the film, if you throw out some of the Police Academy type vibe that?s going on with the detectives? seriously I expected to see the Hong Kong version of Michael Winslow to pop up and start making annoying sound effects. The scenes that focus on the serial killer are solid, menacing, and intense as fuck. It?s a shame they shit in their bed and roll around in it by getting too experimental with the tone. There is a lull in the middle of the film, after the serial killer is arrested, and the film?s torture sequence where the cops try to pry information out of Wong feels a little drawn out, but the rest of the film flows rather nicely.
The gore and the brutality is what this film is famous for, and for good reason. You?ve got your over the top rape and murder scene, you?ve got your crazy human butchering montage, and quite possibly the world?s worst and most brutal family massacre scene. The gore and the special effects are all laid out with a reverent flair that is disturbing and pulls no punches. If I liked children, I might have been tempted to turn the film off near the end, instead of laugh insanely. Good stuff.
The Untold Story has some major flaws, but the sheer ballsiness of the flick is enough to counterbalance the good against the bad, creating a delicious Hong Kong classic that is unlike any movie out there. The film?s complete lack of sensitivity to people that may have actually been killed in this true crime tale is appalling, but who gives a damn? It looks cooler than a pile of used profos, gives your stomach a couple twists, and sticks in the memory like that time you played hide and seek with your naked Scoutmaster at the annual Boy Scouts overnight campout.
Final Synopsis: This movie is only for the diehard horror fans out there, as it may be a little over the top and odd for the more casual fans. It?s a great flick that pulls no punches and delivers on the gore without wimping out in typical bullshit cinema-style. Give it a rent, or buy a copy if you?re a sick fuck. Like I am.
Points Lost: -1 for trying to combine Police Academy with Se7en tonally, -1 for a lame approach at telling the story; there?s no real mystery here, so stop pretending like there is one
Lesson Learned: The best recipe for barbecue pork buns includes urine, poop in a bucket, and human bodies ground into filling. Enjoy.
Burning Question: Why is it so fucking hard to find information on foreign serial killers? excluding the lame British serial killers?
The Untold Story.
Enoy and keep a bag next to you.
It's ultimately an ugly little movie that, while not as bleak as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (thanks, terrible cop subplots) , still leaves you with a worry about that tickle in the back of your soul.
Anthony Wong is the definition of Hongkong cinema.