Dr. Lamb

Based on the true story of a serial killer in Hong Kong, co-directors Danny Lee and Billy Tang bring this gruesome story to the screen in a somewhat stylish but ultimately emotionally empty container. This film has gained a fair amount of notoriety and popularity since it was released in 1992 among the Cat. III fans of mutilated bodies and warm corpses. Admittedly, this sort of film isn’t really something I am into – I actually prefer a woman’s breast attached to her as opposed to being stored in a jar – so I went in fully expecting to be made very uncomfortable – but what I wasn’t expecting was to find it rather dull going.
The narrative structure of the film (told in a series of flashbacks after the killer is captured soon after the movie begins) takes away any sense of tension that one might expect from a crime drama and turns it into an autopsy - literally and figuratively - of a sick serial killer. For this to work though the filmmaker needs to take you on a psychological journey deep inside the disturbed mind of this man - but there is no attempt beyond some vague references as to why Simon Yam does what he does - we don't understand his character and motivations any better by the end of the film than at the beginning - he just likes peeping and cutting up things that jiggle. So instead the filmmakers just throw various gross out moments at the audience like raw meat to the lions but after a while they lose any impact and by the end I was more than ready to say goodbye to Dr. Lamb.

The first one must always be the hardest. All of a sudden you have this dead woman on your hands. Damn, you hadn’t really given much thought to the post-killing part did you? It was all about the killing and now you have to dispose of the body. What a drag. Such a mess. Of course most serial killers don’t kill elsewhere and then bring the body back to their place for entertainment purposes. But our Simon is a very sick man. So he kills them in his taxi and brings them back to his apartment – oh – where by the way his father, his brother, his sister and her child all are living! – where he examines them like a child who has captured his first grasshopper. Kind of like a quiet date at home but not exactly since Simon tends to howl like a wolf when he gets excited - and does he get excited.

He wants to remember this enchanted evening though  - so he takes souvenirs – pictures – and their breasts and keeps them in his treasure chest – someday to show to his grandchildren on a rainy day. Yup – with this one I started with a knife but it was so slow cutting her up into various pieces that I had to buy a chainsaw. Now that did the trick – I completely endorse that product – five minutes later she was fitting snugly into a garbage bag – but what a mess! Blood everywhere – you wouldn’t believe how far a body can spurt blood and so much of it! It took me forever to clean up that blood. Oh look at this one kids - she was special – I really liked her – and did I get lucky too that night! Best sex I ever had with a dead body.
All this is shown in clinically gory detail like a primer in a medical school. Sure I winced a few times but no more so than I do when someone places a plate of sauerkraut in front of me. It is disgusting (sauerkraut too!) – but it feels so impersonal – we don’t know any of his victims and we have no understanding or sympathy or hatred for the killer. He just does what he does and there are always victims to be had. The cops (Danny Lee, Kent Cheng, Parker Wong, Emily Kwan) who catch him – not through great detective work but because he takes his pictures to be developed and someone notices the subjects seem to be dead – simply brutalize him till he confesses and spills his guts.
One wonders here whether the filmmakers are trying to make a statement that the cops are almost as bad as the killer – but somehow since cop lover Danny Lee is behind the camera I doubt it. In his mind the cops beating a subject till he confesses is likely simply good police procedure. The viewer may think differently – but at the same time the killer’s crimes are so hideous that one hardly feels badly for him. This theme was picked up again a year later in Untold Story in which many of the same actors again play cops beating a suspect (Anthony Wong) till he breaks down. In this case the beatings went much further and almost squeezes out some sympathy for the suspect – but considering his crimes not a lot. Billy Tang was to go on after this to quickly direct his trio of gut churning crime dramas - Red to Kill, Run and Kill and Brother of Darkness.

My rating for this film: 5.0