He Lives By Night
This early 80s thriller borrows heavily from
a few of the suspense masters black humor from Hitchcock, visuals and
music from Argento, a transvestite serial killer from De Palma but it
overlays this with a comedic style that is clearly all Hong Kong. This
isnt too surprising in that the producers are Karl Maka and Dean Shek
two of the founders of Cinema City.
The schizophrenic ping pong effect of the film
is very much in the tradition of HK in which the audience appears to prefer
their horror screams mixed with an equal amount of laughs but no matter
how many HK horror films I see I still find it somewhat disconcerting.
One moment a woman is being sliced and strangled and in the next the protagonists
are indulging in some nonsensical shenanigans that seem to be from a different
This mix of horror and comedy is established immediately
in the film. In the opening scene a woman walks down an alleyway in the
late night hours and finds herself trapped in a series of hanging multi-colored
sheets. She frantically attempts to fight her way through them as they
are being sliced one by one by an unseen assailant. This is all very Argento
in style and even accompanied by a dense Tangerine Dream like score. Following
this is the first sighting of Sylvia Chang standing in sultry repose after
coming out from the shower. She is dressed very sexily in revealing lingerie
only to have her swing the door aside to reveal that the body was painted
on a door and that Sylvia is primly covered up in a giant towel.
The killing took place right outside of her apartment
and on her way to work as a late night talk radio host, she comes across
the investigating officers Kent Cheng and a very young baby faced Simon
Yam. Both the pipe smoking Cheng and Yam named Lousy Wong here take
an interest in Sylvia and decide to pursue her romantically. This romantic
triangle along with a bumbling portrayal of the cops provide most of the
comedy though much of it is quite lame unfortunately.
More murders begin taking place and Sylvia
chastises the killer on her radio show as being less than a man never
a smart thing to do in a horror film. Of course these types of films always
depend on the fact that the killer is always listening to her show at the
appropriate time a fact that the police assume later when they try to
The killer (Eddie Chan) has had a weakness for
women in white stockings ever since he came home unexpectedly to find his
wife in bed with a transvestite dressed in that way. After leaving the
mental institution, he has taken to dressing up applying a little makeup
putting on high heels and going out on the town in hopes of finding
a woman in white stockings then stalking her and killing her. Not exactly
a load of laughs.
The constant light humor doesnt really allow
the film to ever create a sense of tension and suspense but a number
of individual scenes play out nicely. The murders are well staged and the
victims are fleshed out enough to make their demise more than just a cinematic
device. One murder in particular becomes a wonderful game of cat and mouse
that goes on for quite a while.
Finally, Sylvia decides to become the bait dresses
herself in long white stockings and goes on television to entice him
again assuming that he will be watching TV in the middle of the day.
He is of course and comes after her with a sharp blade and a maniacal
glint in his eye.
My rating for this film: 7.0
Distributed by Mega Star/Media Asia
The transfer is excellent - especially considering
the age of the film. There is a bit of speckling at times - but not too
bad - and the night scenes of which there are quite a few are very clear.
Removable subtitles with choices of Traditional
Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Includes it's own trailer and the trailers
for "Fatal Love", "Till Death Do We Scare", and "My Cousin, the Ghost".
Easy to read subs.