Reviewed by: Ryan Doom
Chen Kuan Tai
What's it about
Soon after a town celebration, a killer starts kidnapping beautiful women and skinning them, leaving two elite town members to do battle and accuse each other of the crimes.
Is it good movie?
A skilled swordsman. His nemesis. A prostitute. A nut in a skull mask. And lanterns. Yes, Human Lanterns has it all, combining elements of horror, action, romance, comedy, and fantasy to create a film thatís mostly successful but doesnít necessarily know what it wants to do. With so many different genres lumped together, Human Lanterns never quite finds its footing, but not for a lack of effort. By combining everything, the film ends up mostly enjoyable with extremely effective fight sequences and some gruesome and painful torture scenes. With that said, all Shaw Bros releases (Hong Kongís version of Warner) Iíve seen include the smorgasbord of genres with effective results. Their recipe included part skin flick, part action, and part horror, attempting to please all audiences. And with their beautiful cinematography, good music, and mostly effective writing, they seldom disappoint.
But letís be honest. A kung fu movie is about the fighting and Human Lanterns effectively delivers. For everyone who believed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon reinvented the genre, well, Human Lanterns accomplishes the exact same flying fights without the benefit of CGI. In addition, itís great to be able to watch the fights. Modern movies chop up any battle with so many edits itís difficult to figure out whoís battling whom. However, Human Lanterns, released in 1982, allows the fights to happen with minimal cuts and even in slow mo to boot. With that said, even the action canít keep the movie afloat. The horror seems forced as the villain takes his victims to a cellar to torture them before peeling off their skin. Perhaps if he were taken seriously, he might evoke fear. However, he leaps around like an idiot, laughing hysterically and acting like a member of Circus de Sole. Even the good guys laugh like morons in the face of danger. Itís rather annoying.
Human Lanterns is so goofy and overacted that you want to enjoy yourself, but at times itís all too much. At first, the horror aspect and the mysterious masked villain worked, but as it continued, his laughs sounded like a cheap Joker and costume started to resemble Teen Wolf with a Halloween mask on. Perhaps if it found more of a balance between the goof and the horror, itíd be more effective. As is, itís too much. Thankfully, the action ruled.
Video / Audio
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Surround with English subtitles.
Shawís Baby Doll: A 14 minute interview with Shaw Bros star Shawn Yin Yin, the first Chinese woman invited to Cannes. Unfortunately, after attending the festival, the Taiwanese government thought she was a spy and banned all her movies. Interesting stuff.
The Skin Peel: Alternate Cut Well, what more do you want? Itís kinda obvious what this is.
Human Lanterns might not be the finest entry into the martial arts category, but itís mostly an enjoyable 90 minutes even if it does attempt to include too many elements from other films. But if you like the action intense and your horror trashy, this Shaw Bros release might just work.