Daughter Of Darkness II (1994)

Directed by: Ivan Lai
Written by: Gwai Book
Producers: Ivan Lai & Taam San Yuen
Starring: Cheng Yim Lai, Liu Kai Chi, William Ho, Ben Ng & Dick Lau

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Let's do this one ass-backwards, starting with the sequel to the 1993 movie Daughter Of Darkness. Released during a time when graphic Category III rated productions was made in huge numbers (the more famous ones being based on actual murder cases) and each trying to top the other in bad taste. Ivan Lai helmed the original Daughter Of Darkness which also starred Anthony Wong, a memorable presence in Cat III cinema. Cast member William Ho (Prison On Fire) returned and Red To Kill's Ben Ng joined the cast for this stand alone sequel. ALMOST stand alone, a brief shot of Liu Kai Chi watching a photograph of Anthony Wong's cop character from the first movie connects them but other than that, everyone is new to the story.

Police discover a family of three brutally murdered and the dimwitted village cops begins their search of the murderer. Semen found on the crime scene leads to a suspect, Kun (Dick Lau), but unfortunately he falls of a roof and ends up in a coma. While at the hospital, the sergeant heading the case (Liu Kai Chi from Funeral March) sees the mysterious Sau (Cheng Yim Lai from Hong Kong X-File) transferring the remains of a lost one for burial. He follows her to the cemetery and she sits down with him to tell her story...

Before reading any further, let me quickly summarize what Daughter Of Darkness II is. It's very much a male film or in more words, a softcore porno with added darkness, comedy and gore. Ever since the first Cat III movie (Taylor Wong's Sentenced To Hang), most of these kind of movies I've seen have all employed the same narrative structure. One where the main events are told in flashbacks, as also seen in Dr. Lamb and The Untold Story. Reasoning behind this structure being seen over and over again? Think it has to do with both that it's an effective way to unfold your plot but also there's a sense of filmmakers being lazy, copying concepts in other words. Other similarities that turn up in Ivan Lai's film are the comedy cops. Clownish, amateurish and far from politically correct...the comedy is on! There are moments at the beginning where the humour is so lowbrow, you do laugh out loud. Sometimes happens with me and Wong Jing movies, he tries so hard with his brand of comedy that you can't help to laugh after a while. In Ivan's movie, the humour is hardly inspiring and the gags become very flat after a minute or two. Already at the beginning, Ivan's main flaw as a director shines through; he does not know when to stop.

It's very obvious that the only reason comedy exists here, and it doesn't fit with the other moods of the film, is because Hong Kong filmmakers do not want to subject an audience to 90 minutes of darkness. In particular when you're after the box office money (Daughter Of Darkness II took in over 6 million Hong Kong dollars, a step down from the fairly successful part one). Among all this silliness, points of interest begin to pop up when Ivan begins to hint at what's coming. Best example of this and the movie's best shot is the stylish reveal of the murder aftermath. Clearly Ivan's strength is in creating atmosphere when violence or gore is on screen which is why the finale is actually captivating. These are really the two truly positive notes about the film. At 96 minutes, Daughter Of Darkness II is an almost painfully slow trip towards the real story. The story the sex and gorehounds are waiting for.

When we begin to follow the flashback element of the film, several plot holes and illogical aspects are easily spotted. Ken talks about being in the Vietnam war but looking at him, he would've been very young to be a soldier. Unless the filmmakers, without advertising it, set the film earlier than it's production year (1994). In terms of characters, Sau and Ken are the heart and lovers of the film. A couple that would do anything for each other but much more than that is not evident on screen or in writing. There are no real emotions in the air for us as viewers to connect to, even if Ken shows us more humanistic sides when it's revealed that he's impotent. All content of the flashback is played quite serious but it's hard to take it very serious when much of what we see is just an excuse to get more sex and nudity into the film. However, the sex scenes are a fair bit more erotic compared to the other Cat III efforts which makes them enjoyable from a male perspective. Ivan does linger a bit too much on each such scene and another example of that is the moment where Kun is paid to make Sau pregnant. In the sex scene that follows, Ivan's dramatic instincts are not completely off but the scene would've been more effective if trimmed a bit. Then again, I may be looking at all this way too serious. Sit back and enjoy if you're into this. You know who you are.

The acting by female lead Cheng Yim Lai deserves a bit praise. There's lots of emotions to be performed and in between the sex scenes, she handles the dark trip from happy wife to victim believably. Good acting when it comes to Cat III movies at least. Ben Ng, 'famous' for his performance in Red To Kill, tries to be the dramatic lead and succeeds to a decent degree. Certainly refreshing to see someone actually trying in this type of film. Supporting characters aren't given much to do besides being there for silly comedic purposes or to be antagonistic, all very underwritten really.

Ivan Lai's Daughter Of Darkness II, after it's gory finale, becomes one solid guilty pleasure. Newbies to the genre should try out the more famous entries in the genre and seasoned veterans will enjoy this. You know who you are.

The DVD:

Letterboxed at 1.85:1 but a bad looking dvd. Print damage is most apparent around the reel changes (this dvd is taken from a theatrical print) and for a long period of time, a vertical line runs through the side of the screen. Hues are very red and detail bad for a dvd. Barely decent vhs quality.

The Cantonese 2.0 track showcases decent separation at the beginning but doesn't workout the speakers to any great degree. A bit flat bit all in all, a decent track for a low budget movie. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.

The English subtitles are burned in but remains readable and free of errors most of the time. No extras on the disc.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

Thanks to shawbros for providing me with the producercredit.