Nude Fear

Reviewed by YTSL

Don’t judge a book by its cover or a Hong Kong film by its title (especially its English language one?).  Or a person by their looks (and potentially all too deceptive demeanor).  These were the lessons that got reinforced upon my viewing this absolute sleeper of a Category IIB effort with the exploitation movie title -- whose villain a friend of mine had intriguingly described to me as being like the male version of Takeshi Miike’s “Audition”’s main female character (in terms of their having the huge potential to make viewers of the works that they’re in think more carefully than previously about trusting (even) those members of the opposite sex who -- at least initially -- don’t come across as being all that strange or scary acting).

In its very first few minutes, NUDE FEAR offers up the really disturbing vision of a young girl returning from school, being confronted with the bloody aftermath of a very violent attack on her now obviously dead mother (whose bound and naked form lies near the far side of the modest abode’s main room) and going into major denial for some time re the taking place of those horrible occurrences which one would have thought it impossible to even momentarily disbelieve had been enacted.  In all honesty, the rather surreal as well as macabre sight of the victim’s innocent faced daughter going about doing some homework in the midst of all the sickening evidence of brutal deeds having been very successfully carried out only hours -- or maybe minutes -- ago is one that’s hard to get out of my mind; this not least since, in those particular circumstances, that usually mundane activity involved an pig-tailed child needing and trying to ignore the falling of drops of a loved one’s blood onto her exercise book from the ceiling above.

At the end of Alan Mak’s impressive maiden directorial effort, a dedicatory note appears on screen that -- especially if it had sincerely come from the bottom of someone’s heart -- sent more chills up and down my spine.  “For a distant friend.  Hope his nightmare is over”, reads the personal sounding -- even while publicly expressed -- message.  Verily, it is my sense that after being witness to some of the maybe not so completely fictitious after all events and actions that are shown taking place in NUDE FEAR before the dispatching of this oblique sounding yet revelatory feeling communiqué, it will be the rare individual who does not get similarly affected upon his or her setting eyes on these otherwise not particularly significant words (whose meaningfulness is accentuated for me by their making up only the third personal dedication -- with those that can be found within “Hu-Du-Men” and at the end of “Ah Kam” -- that I can recall having come across in a Hong Kong movie).
In his review of this thrilling 1998 film (that can be found on his “Another Hong Kong Movie Page”), Tim Youngs stated that:  “All the plot elements have been done elsewhere”; and “some viewers will find [its] formula generic”.  While this may be so to some extent, I’m inclined to suspect that it’s difficult to ever be completely blasè about any movie in which a team of policewomen and -men are trying to track down a cunning serial rapist cum murderer (whose name I will not reveal for fear of this divulgence acting as a major plot spoiler) plus copycat protégé (who comes in the form of Sam Lee) whose gruesome modus operandi includes their doing such as cut up their victims from the vagina to abdomen -- so that they die by way of slowly and painfully bleeding to death -- plus remove their tongues.  And when it is revealed that the uncommonly driven Homicide Bureau detective Superintendent in charge of this offering’s investigation (who Kathy Chow competently plays) is none other than the woman that the unfortunate little girl -- whose mother’s killer had remained at large for some 20 years -- seen in NUDE FEAR’s opening sequence had grown up to become, there cannot help but be an emotional charge attached to much of this crime drama’s proceedings.
As was hinted in this review’s opening paragraph, some tension is added to this movie’s mix by way of NUDE FEAR’s main villain and more than one of its red herrings coming from the ranks of those who were among the most familiar -- and therefore least suspicious -- to the film’s protagonist (i.e., her department colleagues and professional superiors; among whom are characters that are intriguingly portrayed by Tze Kwan Ho and Cheung Tat Ming).  Strange as it might (initially) seem to others, further frissons came to me by it being the movie’s master criminal -- rather than its heroine or some innocent and/or “good” guy or gal -- who openly questioned why it is that the world can be so twisted.  More than by the way:  IMHO, the long speech that this most definitely warped, yet often still clear-thinking, individual gives -- in which he makes that philosophical sounding query plus offers up an answer that rests on the seemingly valid suggestion that “the relations between human beings have changed because they have choice” as well as an explanation of what sent him along onto the path whose temporary “stops” included the kidnapping of young girls (one of whom is essayed by Ruby Siu) as well as the murder of at least one adult female -- is one of those whose very effectiveness is a tribute to the obviously considerable abilities of the actor who so smoothly delivered it along with those who wrote it.
Although this Joe Ma and Susan Chan scripted effort is not without some plot holes, I will vouch that NUDE FEAR (also) is a film whose story stayed captivating when I viewed it a second time (Yes, this admittedly frequent repeat viewer truly thought that this offering was good enough to merit my doing this!).  For the record:  Others who undoubtedly contributed towards ensuring that this Brilliant Idea Group production is by no means a pedestrian one are its music composer (Chung Chi Wing), cinematographer (Keung Kwok Man) and editor (Cheung Ka Fai).  Like with the movie itself as well as its apparently still under-rated director and non A list cast, it seems a real pity to me that their work has not been accorded greater recognition.

My rating for this film:  8.5

This is not a Category III sex film as the title might suggest, but actually a decent little thriller. It begins in 1978 when a little girl comes home from school and discovers her mother’s brutal, grisly murder. Jump forward 20 years and the little girl is now a brilliant homicide detective in the HK police force, played by the lovely Kathy Chow.
She comes across a murder with the same M.O. as her mothers and thus begins a game of cat & mouse between her and the killer. Only an idiotic supervisor who constantly makes such litigious comments as "I want to see the expression on your face when you make love" or "do you work as hard in bed as out?" detract from a constant feeling of tension.

Even if it is quite unbelievable in that "movie way" that serial killers always seem to know everything, it is still fairly suspenseful with some scenes of graphic violence and a good no nonsense performance from Chow.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Kathy Chow