by Brian Kelley
One of the best parts of Netflix’s streaming service is the instant access to content produced in every corner of the globe, from underground cult sensations to award-winning festival fare.
For those with stronger stomachs and a thirst for genre films, Netflix now offers an ultra-violent prison film, a gut-wrenching drama based on real life serial killings and a gorgeous Chinese horror.
The New and Noteworthy
Riki-Oh: The Story of Riky (1991)
In the near-future (2001), Riki-Oh is convicted of manslaughter and thrown into a for-profit prison run by a corrupt warden. Serving the administration and maintaining order behind the bars is the brutal Gang of Four and when Riki-Oh becomes the target of the warden’s ire, he finds himself in a violent battle for survival. Eyeballs are ejected, stomachs ripped open and heads liquified as Riki-Oh clashes with the Gang of Four and, in a blood-drenched finale that must be seen to be believed, the monstrous warden himself.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is every bit as entertaining as it is silly, the gore quotient is through the roof but it’s frequently crafted so poorly it elicits laughs and cheers rather than repulsion. Once relegated to viewing among those in the know and eventually gaining popularity thanks to Craig Kilborn’s 5 Questions segment on The Daily Show, one of Hong Kong’s most gonzo exports is now available at the click of a button.
The Snowtown Murders (2011)
Jamie lives with his two brothers and his mother in a dilapidated housing trust neighborhood in suburban Australia. After discovering that Jamie and his brothers are being molested by a neighbor across the street, family friend John Bunting takes care of the problem by forcing the man out of the neighborhood. From there, John takes Jamie under his wing, introducing him to his friends as well as his bigotry. As their relationship grows stronger, John eventually shows Jamie his true nature and thus entangles the 16-year-old in one of the worst serial killing sprees in Australia’s history.
The Snowtown Murders is a gripping and free-flowing film that weaves in and out of some of the true events that comprise the Bodies in Barrels murders which claimed the lives of 11 people who were found stuffed into barrels in the small town of Snowtown. The focus of the film is firmly on Jamie and his transformation from credulous teen to willing participant. As such, the film shifts from scene to scene without too much explanation, characters drift in and out and events unfold with brutal detail.
First time director Justin Kurzel’s camera is unflinching, letting a team of superb actors (especially Lucas Pittaway as Jamie and Daniel Henshall as John), an unforgettable score and the facts of the real life story work together to disturb audiences to their cores.
From the Vault
First, a history lesson. In 2002 an anthology horror film was made tapping into the talents of three of the hottest directors in Asia: Peter Chan, Ji-woon Kim, and Nonzee Nimibutr. The result was mediocre at best with only a few standout moments. However, two years later a second anthology was put together with Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike and Chan-wook Park in the directors’ chairs. The product of this effort was far better. This second film was released in the US as Three… Extremes. Based on the success of that release, the original film was released in the US as 3 Extremes II. Confused? Enough history, all you truly need to know is, out of the six segments across both films, Dumplings by Fruit Chan found in Three… Extremes is the best. Even better? There’s a full length version which contains 50-some more minutes of twisted storytelling.
Li (Miriam Yeung) is an aging former TV star who seeks out the help of Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), a woman famous for her dumplings which seem to have a rejuvenating property that reverses some of the effects of aging. Trying to recapture her fading beauty and win back the waning affections of her husband (Tony Leung), she chooses to ignore the horror of the source of the dumplings’ ingredients. To say any more about this wonderfully twisted, painfully beautiful (the cinematography by Christopher Doyle will leave you breathless) cautionary tale would be to spoil its magic.
Suffice it to say, this is a film for mature audiences with a stomach for the macabre which, while graphic, never feels gratuitous. This is top-shelf horror and recommended for fans of the original short and horror junkies new to the Dumplings story alike.