Human Lanterns (HK 1982)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/6/14
Cast: Yung Liu, Chen Kuan Tai, Lo Lieh, Tien Ni

A macabre swordplay film from Shaw Brothers about two influential men who are constantly feuding with one another. When Tan (Chen Kuan Tai) challenges Lung (Yung Liu) to a lantern contest, Lung goes to master lantern maker Chun-Fang (Lo Lieh) for help. It turns out that Chun-Fang bears a grudge against Lung, and plans to use the lantern project to exact his revenge. He's also just a tad bit deranged, and likes to make lanterns from the skins of young women. The overly proud Lung and Tan play right into his hands, and don't realize they've been set up until it's too late.

It's a pretty twisted and violent film, and the skin peeling scenes are a bit gruesome. The first victim, in particular, is fairly shocking, and the actress is an excellent screamer. The action revs up right at the end, with an impressive kung fu showdown between Yung Liu, Chen Kuan Tai, and Lo Lieh. The sets are delightful and the lighting is very moody and colorful. Unfortunately, the story is thin and lacks tension, the pacing is rather sluggish, and Lo Lieh's performance is too goofy to take seriously. Lung is a totally despicable character, so it's difficult to sympathize with him, and his pretty wife (Tien Ni) becomes collateral damage as a result. Not for the squeamish, but fans of Chinese horror may appreciate it.