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Review © Tyler Robbins, 2007.

(Secret) Directed by Yeung Chi Gin, 2001, 91 minutes, starring Chiu Chiu Chan, Michael Wong, Angela Tong Ying-Yang, Christy Cheung, Gabriel Harrison, and Hugo Ng. (Pork Chop) Directed by Benny Chan Chi Sun, 2001, 90 minutes, starring Sai-Wing Yip, Ga Yiu Mok, and Saan Lui.

In 2001, two films were released simultaneously about the real-life murder of a prostitute in Kowloon.  Thanks to the media frenzy surrounding the subsequent trial, these films were responded to with equal parts disgust and curiosity.  But both films together naturally share a single basic storyline, hence this joint review. 

The plot/plots is/are simple: a prostitute borrows money from her pimp for her grandmother's operation (or whatever), she gets beaten around and humiliated, the beating progresses from slight to severe, and she ends up dead.  Stuck with a body, those who killed her then dismember her body, and she ends up in someone's dinner.  The key point in both films is the early film revelation that the deceased woman's skull was hidden within a Hello Kitty doll, an obvious reference to the actual events which garnered the nickname "The Hello Kitty Murder."  Both films are disturbingly in the same key; there is an underlying investigation story, where the people who broke into the apartment at the beginning are seen interrogating  the accused throughout, leading to the narrative.  It was my suspicion, watching these films, that there was one script doing the rounds that ended up being made by two different directors.  So there are no original elements to distinguish between the two, plot-wise. 

There Is A Secret In My Soup was the first of the two films I watched.  Opening with a panning shot revealing a messy, dark, smoky (?) apartment, a camera shakily covers inches and feet of the apartment at random as investigators look through the rooms knowingly. A woman holds a stuffed animal (its face pixellated, perhaps to protect the innocent, more likely to protect Universe's DVD distributors from lawsuits from Sanrio).  Without reason or provocation, she rips open its head, and out comes a skull, which lands on the floor.  There is a secret in my street vendor-quality Hello Kitty!  Good work, lady detective, you are excused from the rest of this film!

Almost immediately, the derivative story heads out the gate with typical B-movie cliché.  An investigator (part of Hong Kong's elite group of serious faced pin-up cops, known as the Suave Squad) shows up at the scene, where everyone is melodramatically shaken.  Lots of off-camera puking because it's so horrible (which I did not see as all that horrible, only dirty and needing of disinfectant), etc, etc.  Just when people had come up with as many ways to look ill at ease as possible, we cut to an exploitative and tacky scene of a man cutting up meat with scissors and preparing it, while slow motion scenes of poorly-mannered mouths eat the cooked and prepared meat in purposely disgusting ways.  Oh, how suggestive, film-makers!  That food must be people, then, gross!  Gag myself with a spoon!  (The music is crazy at this point, I should point out, but that would seem to give the impression that it is not crazy throughout the film, because that would be a lie.)

Quickly a storyline plants itself in my face: an investigator doing something investigation-worthy; a prostitute who borrows money for her grandmother is unable to pay it back; lots of battery against women; and the most stilted, extended, cable-quality soft-porn shots I've ever willingly sat through.  The woman tries but fails to earn the money back; she is a shy prostitute, which doesn't bode well for any of the parties involved.  The goons chase her, snatch her up, and then beat her up.  Then she's tortured and killed.  The end.  Oh, and then there's the music, did I mention it?  Because it's pretty great.  Better than Angelo Badalamenti.  Better than if God himself played piano.

There Is A Secret In My Soup (Ren tou dou fu shang) isn't the absolute worst film I've ever seen.  But I don't usually watch horrible films so I'm not learned on these things.  Zing!  The reality of the situation is that there really aren't even that many jokes I can make at the expense of the film to overcome the terribleness of it.  The direction is terrible.   The shaky camera is nauseating, and the scenery is never seen because everything is shaking all the time, or shrouded in darkness.  The acting is horrible, the storyline is crappy, but as I went through the laundry list of ways this film stirred in me feelings of frustration and murderous rage, I snapped to attention.  This is a gore film, I reminded myself, trying wearily not to be the snob that I know myself to probably be.  It should be gross!  So I went straight for the gut and pondered: does it deliver on gore?  And the answer is: no.  The scenes in which torture is brandished could be shown on television (most during pre-watershed hours) because of off-camera movement and not so sadistic infliction of pain.  It's all pretty mundane.  Which is disappointing, as the whole movie is a big pile of crap, so you'd think that the guts and black stuff forming the arc of the story would at least be worth the price of admission.  That would be a lie.  Another lie?  The disclaimer at the end of the credits: "All events, characters and incidents portrayed in this photoplay are fictional."

Human Pork Chop (Peng shi zhi sang jin tian liang), on the other hand, needn't hide its disclaimer; as soon as the film was over, its blatant lie popped up for the world to see, I hope to the laughter of those in the theater's audience.  The film itself starts off interestingly: it is prefaced by bulk credits, including who the gaffer is, in case you need to know such things before you watch a movie.  As these roll, the music is very tribal, and excites me for reasons unknown.  Will this movie actually be good?  My senses tingle. 

The first scene opens suddenly.  A group of people swing into an apartment, covered in blue darkness, in silence.  This scene is not reminiscent of anything I have ever seen before in a Hong Kong gore film about a murdered prostitute.  The power is out, and they decide to trek inside further to investigate.  And then: the music.  Sweet lord, this is the most surreal, best music I've ever heard!  I don't care if the rest of the film is verbatim to the previous film; this music redeems everything.  And not just in the film, but in life.  My dog dying when I was seven.  Not being able to whistle.  The disappointment of discovering you can't, in fact, be whatever you want if you try hard enough.  All of this: forgotten in an instant.  I'm trying to think of a way to describe it so you can hear it now in your head, a description that would pay proper homage to what has obviously come from various Casio 8-track sample tapes.  It's sort of a mix between 1980's hip-hop beats like the kind Jazzy Jeff would use, with the sort of horror-chanting that you'd find in advertisements for films like The Omen or in scenes on Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who involving occult-like activities layered on top of it.  In a word: AMAZING.  Also: totally funky fresh. 

Back to the film: the investigators (I'm calling them that even though they're in street clothes) peruse the apartment, which is pretty nice looking.  The lady investigator (again, this story's not familiar at all) sees a Hello Kitty on a shelf, and notices a picture behind it.  She used her flashlight to nudge the animal forward and see the photos hidden behind.  The kitten, unexpectedly top-heavy, falls off the shelf and out comes: a skull!  How original.

The story that follows Human Pork Chop is basically the same story as There Is A Secret In My Soup.  But Human Pork Chop is a different sort of film.  The acting is less horrible.  The direction is straight-forward, but it's not as exploitative, but at the same time it is.  It's hard to explain; this is a more minimalist film.  The quality of the film itself is a testament to its mood: the print is cracked and has lines on it, it's very rough and beaten and that works, it really works in favor of this sort of story.  But the heart (pun intended) of the film is its gore.  And Human Pork Chop, while still perhaps (read: definitely) no Guinea Pig, delivers much better than its cinematic twin.  The dismemberment scene is gory, and bloody, and even though the cutting and tearing and all those awkward movements still occur relatively out-of-shot, the gore is evident.  Suddenly limbs are being handed around, and the illusion of gore is realistic enough to excuse the lack of actually seeing a hacksaw cut off a woman's arm.

It's hard to say that I liked either film.  In a word, they're both pointless.  I sure as hell wouldn't watch them again.  But whereas There Is A Secret In My Soup is like a Visitor Q that will sit on my shelf and collect dust for eternity, provoking my ire every time I pass it and sending me into a memory-induced rage, Human Pork Chop is perhaps an Ichi The Killer; something I pop in every once in a blue moon when I'm feeling brave and want to show someone something different to gross them out a bit.  Secret is a soft-core porno, all breasts and sex and cheap fakery.  Human Pork Chop doesn't go for that, though.  It's still low-brow as hell (there is a scene involving the consumption of feces that will delight and disgust), but it comes across in a more positive way (for lack of a better word).  The music, the amazing, sweet nectar of ear pleasure, that accompanies Human Pork Chop also helps things a great deal.  I wish I were a poet so I could write in stanzas the excitement and satisfaction I took from beat-box jams and occult chanting.

Long story short: don't watch There Is A Secret In My Soup unless you don't get movie channels with porno on it late at night.  At the end of the day, regardless of how utterly tacky this film is in content, it will be seen as a gore film and not as a documentary or sweeping social statement or even the porn it turns into for a quarter of an hour.  And to stand on a gore pedestal and not even deliver the goods is disingenuous.  Assuming these were fictional films (which they are not, because the film-makers are liars), I am doubtful either would've even made it to a film release.  These are straight-to-VCD quality films that found a way to make a few more bucks.  Shrewd, yes.  Entertaining?  Human Pork Chop is, at least.  It might portray its victim in a less than positive light (she comes off as kind of a bitch, really), but neither of these films is here to do anything but exploit her regardless.  If I were going to put Human Pork Chop on the scale of Guinea Pig, it'd be somewhere between Mermaid In A Manhole and He Never Dies; not serious enough to actually be real, but entertaining and a bit disturbing.  So it's a mixed bag.  Neither of these has given me faith in modern cinema.  But sometimes a spade's just a spade.  I can deal with that.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:

Entertainment: 1/10 (Secret), 6/10 (Pork Chop)
Violence: 6/10 (Secret), 8/10 (Pork Chop)
Chills: 0/10 (Secret), 0/10 (Pork Chop)
Gross-outs: 2/10 (Secret), 7/10 (Pork Chop)
Sex: vacuum cleaner attachments/10 (Secret)
Humour: that sweet jam I keep getting stuck in my head/10 (Pork Chop)

Films in a Similar Style: Dr Lamb, Ebola Syndrome, Untold Story, Dumplings, Bloody Buns

*** You might not want to order soup next time ***

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There Is A Secret In My Soup Wallpaper
please note: the actual paper does not have the Snowblood Apple logo on it.

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2007

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Yeung Chi Gin
Benny Chan Chi Shun


Links

http://www.kowloonside.com/movies/thereisasecretinmysoup.html - A recommendation in favor of There Is A Secret In My Soup over Human Pork Chop
http://www.beyondhollywood.com/reviews/secretinmysoup.htm - A recommendation in favor of Human Pork Chop over There Is A Secret In My Soup (by default)
http://www.hkfilm.net/porkchop.htm A brief review of Pork Chop without the dirty influence of Secret
http://www.horrorexpress.com/moviereview/human-pork-chop Horror Express understands the terror of never unseeing the consumption of crap (literal or otherwise)


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