Beyond the Pale: Serial Homicide

“I’ll tell you why I had to snuff the bitch.”  (Pauline Wong, “Night Caller”)

A relatively early film with distinctive pacing, cinematography and score, Wong Kuo-chu’s “Exposed to Danger” (1988) begins as a languid relationship drama, then veers into the territory of stalking and serial murder by a jealous young woman seeking revenge against the character of Lu Hsiao-fen for the death of her father.  A few other notable HK productions also feature female serial killers.  Five rather different offerings feature relatively prominent actors from contrasting backgrounds in this role – Pauline Wong (“Night Caller,” 1985), Moon Lee (“A Serious Shock! Yes Madam!” 1993), Julie Lee (“Trilogy of Lust II,” 1995), Carrie Ng (“Passion Unbounded,” 1995), Jacqueline Wu (“Intruder,” 1997).  It is too simple to dismiss such titles as exploitation trash.  Not only do several merit viewing but leave lingering, disturbing impressions.  Some of these titles, as well as thematically similar works such as “Love to Kill” (1993) and “Red to Kill” (1994), feature both above average acting and production values as well as surprisingly strong elements of social commentary.

Wu Chien-lien (Intruder) and Unknown in Exposed to Danger
Julie Lee’s film, in particular (one of two that she also wrote and produced), suggests rather chilling forensic sophistication.  Features such as collecting trophies, escalation, and generalized increase in risk taking are all persuasive.  Well beyond the bounds of typical Cat. III productions,  “Trilogy of Lust II” is a misanthropic portrayal in which Julie Lee plays an increasingly unstable sado-masochistic murderer who hunts men.  She progresses from seducing the virile and attractive to assaulting any adult male, virtually anywhere.  This film virtually defines key elements of the sub-genre – extreme violation of norms, being driven by past events, and extremely unflattering portrayals of male behavior.
Julie Lee (Trilogy of Lust II) and Diana Pang Dan (Evil Instinct)
The plot of “Trilogy of Lust II” is distinguished from vengeance titles by the relationship of the principal protagonist to the targets of her aggression.  In most vengeance films the targets personally deserve retribution.  Other films in the homicide sub-genre, “Night Caller” and “A Serious Shock” placed the blame for the killer’s lethal spree on recent rejection and relationship breakdown.  Rather than seeking generalized symbolic revenge against an entire gender, these movies present initially personal vengeance that escalates into more utilitarian killing.  “Intruder” is in some ways the most chilling of all the recent homicide titles, since Jacqueline Wu’s character keeps one of her numerous victims crippled but alive.  Her ghoulish purpose and the film’s surprising ending make this a noteworthy entry.  “Passion Unbounded” may be the least satisfactory since it sheds no light on the motivation of Carrie Ng’s character beyond rather lurid pairing of sexuality and death.
Ellen Chan (The Love that is Wrong) and Carrie Ng (Passion Unbounded)