Everyone can always remember what got them watching foreign language movies, and for me it was undoubtedly the explosion of Asian horror towards the end of the 1990s. Films like The Ring, The Eye and Dark Water opened up my meagre brain to the realisation that there was more to horror than a guy in a mask chasing six teenagers around the woods. In the last ten years or so Asian horror has sadly become less prolific – at least with regard to what we in the UK get to see anyway. Only films such as Thirst by Park Chan-wook and also Revenge: A Love Story (also on the Terrorcotta label) have really piqued my interest.
Here we are then with the latest by one of the originals, Danny Pang. With his brother Oxide they were responsible for The Eye and its sequels as well as the original Bangkok Dangerous. Yes, they also did the remake but I’m sure even they would prefer to leave that off their C.V. In Fairy Tale Killer we begin with the interrogation of Jun (Wang Bao Qiang), a man who’s been brought into the police station for acting suspiciously. He admits to a murder, but when the police go round to the alleged victim’s house they find him alive and well. Dismissing this peculiar individual as simply mentally handicapped, the police have no other option but to release him.
As Inspector Han (Lau Ching Wan) goes home that evening and ponders over the strange events of the day, we discover a turbulent relationship with his wife and his difficulty in living with an autistic son. So much so that work seems to be a refuge for him, working long hours yet also having a reputation of being cold and determined.
The main crux of the story kicks in when the guy that Jun admitted to murdering is found dead with seven stones inserted into his torso. Han is convinced that the killer can be no one other than Jun, but apprehending him may prove to be more difficult than he thought. A raid on his home reveals an obsession with fairy tale orientated literature, and soon more victims begin to turn up, all with fairy tale inspired means of death. Han also discovers that Jun is using the talents of a mute autistic artist (Elanna Kwong) with quite spectacular ability.
I thought Fairy Tale Killer was a good movie, albeit one that never really fulfilled the potential that it had. For a budget of $5million, the look of the film is impressive indeed with particular mention to the gorgeous artwork presented throughout the film. In the lead role we’re lucky to have Lau Ching Wan (Mad Detective) who succeeds in conveying the multitude of facets that his character has. Meanwhile, Wang Bao Qiang brings sensitivity to a difficult role as the mentally disabled killer – an aspect I’m not so sure was right for the movie.
On the downside, I just felt the film attempted to do too much. Maybe with a longer running time could more depth be given to the various directions in which Pang decides to take the movie. Ultimately though, it feels that the nucleus is there for something memorable, but we’re left feeling a little short changed – not to mention the over-elaborate (and ridiculous) Hollywood style horror ending which only serves to rip Fairy Tale Killer’s cultural identity out from under itself.