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Teenage Hooker Becomes Killing Machine

Review by: 
Blackgloves
Release Date: 
2000
Studio: 
Third Widow Films
Genre: 
Experimental
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
2 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
N/A
Directed by: 
Nam Ki-woong
Cast: 
Lee So-yun
Kim Dae-tong
Movie: 
3
Extras: 
2
Bottom Line: 
3

This digital video shot mini-film (it runs for only sixty minutes, and about ten minutes of that are taken up with the world's lengthiest title and end credit sequences) can certainly never be accused of not providing what it sets out on the can: there is a teenage hooker, and she does indeed become a killing machine! Beyond that though, the title is rather misleading. One might be led to expect a somewhat campy, light-hearted parody -- maybe in the style of Russ Meyer. But although this strange film is quirky in the extreme, in fact it sets up stall firmly in the terrain occupied by experimental cinema's more outlandish exponents; actually, this film could almost be a pastiche of the work of Takashi Miiki and some scenes remind one of David Lynch's recent wilder excesses on digital video. Korea's Nam Ki-woong is a long way from delivering anything near as shocking as some of Miiki's best work though: this is no "Visitor Q" or "Ichi the Killer "; and David Lynch need not fear his crown as cinema's foremost surrealist being dislodged anytime soon. Although both this and the director's half-hour mini-feature, "Kangchul" (included on this UK DVD release as an extra), are both concerned with familiar sci-fi themes involving the human-machine interface and cyborg life, Ki-woong chooses to express them in an achingly serious "art house" style that overuses that annoying, blurry slow-motion effect one always gets on digital camcorders, and lots of dreamy, though always murky (a la Lynch's "Inland Empire"), footage involving an opera singer overlooking Seoul from high up on a hill at night. 
 
The story is, actually, as slight as it is possible to get and needs an awful lot of this kind of fathing about to stretch things out for the full hour: a middle-school student passes her nights as a hooker, servicing mainly her teachers and her soon-to-be step-dad. After being caught in an alleyway by one of her teachers (having already propositioned some fella whom she found in a darkened underpass for some reason clutching a large, nodular dildo in his hands!) she at first has a fine time miming and dancing with him to a nifty Korean post-punk tune that sounds a bit like Sonic Youth at their perkiest, before setting out for a ride on the pavements with a couple of chopper bikes. Back at the teacher's (Kim Dae-tong) cavernous warehouse apartment, furnished only with a swing suspended from the ceiling and one of those beds that lights up from beneath, the hooker and her teacher have it away, whereupon the girl proclaims undying love for him (even though her looks like a particularly sharp-featured Klingon) and that she is now pregnant with his child!
 
From here things get really weird and really gory very quickly. There is what is presumably some sort of dream sequence involving the hooker's guts being shot out, whereupon her surpassingly well-developed fetus suspends itself in mid-air from her trailing umbilical cord! Then the teacher's cackling oddball associates turn up, and, after beating the naked girl senseless, proceed to saw off her legs with a giant hack saw! Her remains are then dragged to an underground rubbish-strew hideout and literally stitched together on a creaky metal sewing-machine by a masked figure in a robe. Fitted with weapons (which include a strap-on dildo which is actually a massive gun barrel), the naked hooker is dressed in her old school uniform and put back on the streets of Seoul as an assassin; but old memories soon lead her to track down and revenge herself on her old tormentors.
 
Mixing the revenge genre and sci-fi as it does, the plot is obviously largely a re-run of "Robo-Cop", only with much sleazy sex and gore, and plenty of sub-Lynchian oddball characters, that look like they're on loan from "Eraserhead", thrown in. It's bizarre stuff, and the eclectic soundtrack of classical music, jazz- bop, opera, and blessed-out post punk, seems to cloak the images often in wildly inappropriate moods. Wild as it all may seem, it is all presented in a straight-faced fashion -- the digital video murkiness now being the standard form denoting "serious" experimentation. Is there anything here that really pushes back cinematic boundaries? Not really. If you liked "Inland Empire" and you enjoy Miiki's more offbeat efforts, then it is a fair bet you'll find something to like in this minor effort; otherwise most will want to stay clear.
 
The disc also includes a half-hour film called "Kangchul". This is mainly a whispered monologue by an eyeless mutant cyborg creature lying injured in the carriage wagon of a train, who addresses a soldier wearing a weirdly futuristic version of traditional armour. The world of the film seems to be a dystopian, war-battered near-future in which the remaining survivors make sacrifices to the titular creature. The latest is to be the woman the cyborg was in love with when he was human! It's fairly uneventful, consisting mainly of a single shot of the mutant's head while he tells (in harsh whispers) his dire story. Those who stick with it will be rewarded with a smattering of female nudity near the end, though!
 

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