films seen
19
average score
2.89*
nationality
Hong Kong - 63 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

Unconventional Hong Kong director who made his fair share of genre films, just never quite like the rest. Chan's oeuvre is somewhat inconsistent, but it's a valuable collection of films that holds a good number of positive surprises.

Rare treats

Hollywood Hong Kong

Heung Gong Yau Gok Hor Lei Wood
2001 / 108m - Hong Kong
Drama
Hollywood Hong Kong poster

The film is visually impressive, boasts a distinctive and attractive soundtrack, features an interesting and cool story, and it is supported by a cast of strong actors.

Solid pieces

The Midnight After

Na Yeh Ling San, Ngo Joa Seung Liu Wong Gok Hoi Wong Dai Bou Dik Hung Van
2014 / 124m - Hong Kong
Sci-fi, Mystery
3.5*/5.0*
The Midnight After poster

Normally I like to use the original title in my reviews (or at least the transliteration of the original title), but in the case of Fruit Chan's Hollywood Hong Kong) latest feature Na Yeh Ling San, Ngo Joa Seung Liu Wong Gok Hoi Wong Dai Bou Dik Hung Van it would become just a little too ridiculous, so instead I'll just be sticking with The Midnight After.

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I've seen my share of Fruit Chan films through the years and even though I certainly didn't like all of them, his films are always worth a gamble. Even when one of them fails to engage there's always something to like or admire. The Midnight After is a kind of culmination of everything he has done before, yet at the same time it feels like a completely new direction for Chan.

Based on an online novel, The Midnight After is part sci-fi, part mystery. Not a very popular or common combination for a Hong Kong film. The film starts like many of its American counterparts, with a random group of people meeting on a bus, only to be transported to some mysterious, alternate version of Hong Kong a little while later. In their universe, all people have disappeared, apart from a cloaked figure wearing a gas mask who follows them around. It's a typical setup for a horror flick (think Reeker), but that's when things start to get a bit weird.

Chan's characters aren't your usual horror fodder though. They are more aware, quickly citing possible scenarios that could've been used as the film's twist ending (like "we had an accident and we're in a limbo between life and death"). He doesn't stick to one particular genre either, adding post-apocalyptic elements, some lighter comedy bits and some genuine weirdness (the Major Tom scene). And if you think it'll all make sense in the end, you're in for a neat little surprise (or disappointment if you really need closure).

The Midnight After is a film that breaks with many genre traditions, instead focusing on its group of characters and building a boundless film around them. Actors like Simon Yam, Kara Hui and Lam Suet put in a decent effort, while You-Nam Wong fares well as the film's lead. The film isn't 100% serious (even though some scenes are quite nasty to watch) so you'll have to deal with the typical Hong Kong overacting from time to time, but that's only to be expected.

Fruit Chan's latest is a peculiar film. It doesn't stick to one single genre, it doesn't really compare to other films (even though it draws inspiration from many different genres), it doesn't even strife for a homogeneous atmosphere. Instead it's a flamboyant trip that reflects the many aspects of current-day Hong Kong and makes sure to trip up the viewer wherever possible. There are some moments of genius here, at other times the film fails to truly engage. But whatever you'll be thinking when you walk out of it, it's definitely worth a shot as it is one of the more unique films I've seen all year.

Tales from the Dark Part 1

2013 / 114m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Tales from the Dark Part 1 poster

Dumplings

Jiao Zi
2004 / 91m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Dumplings poster

Three... Extremes

Saam Gaang Yi
2004 / 125m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Three... Extremes poster

Sequel to the famous horror anthology that repeats the setup of the original and brings together three respected directors from three different Asian countries. Takashi Miike represents Japan, Fruit Chan is there for Hong Kong and Chan-wook Park is the South-Korean delegate. It's also my order of preference.

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Miike's short is by far the most eye-popping. Though Miike has a reputation for being weird and extreme, Box is quite the opposite. It's a very subdued, stylish and classy short that demonstrates once again there's really nothing Miike can't do. If he had expanded this to a full-length feature, it would no doubt be one of his very best films.

Chan's Dumplings is a nasty little short that looks gorgeous (thanks to the help of Christopher Doyle), but works better in its feature-length form. Finally, there's Park's entry, the only big disappointment of this anthology. Not that I expected a lot, but it comes off really bland and uninspired compared to the other two. Still, if you're looking for a neat and varied horror project, you can't really go wrong with this one.

Made in Hong Kong

Heung Gong Jai Jo
1997 / 109m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Drama, Romance, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Made in Hong Kong poster

The inoffensive

Coffin Homes

Gwai Tung Nei Jyu
2021 / 107m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Coffin Homes poster

Fruit Chan's latest is a bonkers horror/comedy. Like Pang's Dream Home a decade ago, Chan is out to tackle the Hong Kong housing market through the horror genre (no doubt a testament to the limited impact of cinema), but he struggles considerably harder to combine excellent genre cinema with social critique.

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The film follows a slumlord and a young realtor who both try to make money from the housing market. Most people can't afford to buy houses anymore, and so they're willing to live in haunted buildings and small homes that hold shrines for the deceased. But the ghosts are out to haunt the people making money off of their homes.

The idea is pretty solid and Chan makes a real effort to go well over-the-top, but it's just not his style. The gore isn't impressive, the ghosts look a little silly and the critique on the housing situation in Hong Kong has been done countless times before. It's good fun and there are some memorable moments, but I'd hoped for more, considering the film's illustrious predecessor.

Three Husbands

Sam Foo
2018 / 101m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Three Husbands poster

Hong Kong has a pretty clean and prim film industry, but not all directors conform to the rules. Fruit Chan is one of those people who prefers to do things his own way, which leads to films like Three Husbands. It's a very direct, sometimes baffling drama about a girl with an insatiable thirst for sexual pleasure.

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Mui works as a prostitute. She's a little dim and she already has a bastard kid, but she's fit for her job as she looks for a man who can satisfy her. She has three men taking care of her, but even though they're willing to try pretty much everything, they can't seem to give her the satisfaction she so desperately seeks.

While the premise sounds ideal for an erotic film, Fruit Chan goes for a mix of drama and comedy instead. The performances are solid and the film looks nice enough, but somehow Mui's quest isn't quite as exciting as it sounds, and some moments (like the scene with the eel) are quite questionable. Still, if you want something different from Hong Kong, look no further.

Commissioned anthology that was made to lift the spirit of Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic. The who's who of Hong Kong cinema participated, but the result is a little uneven. Not too surprising considering the exterior motives behind this anthology, and there are a couple of worthwhile entries, but overall it's probably best to lower your expectations when watching this.

Little Cheung

Xilu Xiang
1999 / 118m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Little Cheung poster

A fine but somewhat inconspicuous drama. The kids are pretty adorable and the cinematography is well above average, even so the drama felt a little too expected. Little Cheung kept my attention and there are some moments where the quality spikes, but overall I wasn't too invested, which isn't ideal for this type of film.

The Longest Summer

Hui Nin Yin Fa Dak Bit Doh
1998 / 128m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
The Longest Summer poster

The handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China was an extremely important event in the history of Hong Kong, its consequences are still causing ripples to this very day. And yet, the Hong Kong movie industry never paid too much attention to it, safe some outlier directors like Fruit Chan.

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As an effect of the handover, soldiers employed by the Brits suddenly find themselves without a proper job. They have no other skills and many of them roam Hong Kong without a clear goal. It's no surprise they end up favoring a life of crime, but even that is easier said than done.

The blueish hues are cold but moody, performances are decent, and the ending is pretty shocking, but the film is also a bit meandering and while the themes do shine through, Chan needs quite a bit of time to get to the point. Not a bad film, but a more pointed and concise effort would've been better.

Finale in Blood

Da Nao Guang Chang Long
1993 / 94m - Hong Kong
Romance, Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Finale in Blood poster

A very capable early Fruit Chan film, that doesn't deliver on its horror premise (on par for most mainstream HK horror), but at least serves up a decent story. Chan's direction is also well above average and while the actors aren't quite perfect, they do a good enough job. Not an ultimate classic, but Chan's talent is already on display here.

Tales from the Occult

Shi Heng Xiong Jian
2022 / 111m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Tales from the Occult poster

Hong Kong loves a good horror anthology, but they often struggle to put out straightforward horror flicks. Tales from the Occult is a decent enough attempt, but none of the shorts are truly scary and the slight decline in quality throughout made me question the order of the shorts.

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The first short follows a young girl as she moves into her new flat, which triggers an old trauma. The second one digs up the history of a burnt-down mall trying to reopen, while the final film is about an internet novelist who develops paranoia through writing about gruesome murders.

The first short builds up the tension quite well but has some iffy effects that take away from the experience. The second short has an interesting premise but struggles to connect it with the fun finale, and the third short tries to mix in some lighter elements, which work against the horror vibe. Not bad, but also not the best of its kind.

Worthy but flawed

Kill Time

Mou Sha Si Shui Nian Hua
2016 / 128m - China
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
Kill Time poster

Complex mix of genres that never establishes a solid bottom line. The story is convoluted and with much effort spent on telling and explaining, not much time is left to worry about the atmosphere. It's not like the film lacks potential, there are some interesting bits and pieces, it just lacks coherence.

Dubious filler

The Invincible Dragon

Jiu Long Bu Bai
2019 / 98m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller
2.0*/5.0*
The Invincible Dragon poster

Fruit Chan is a true Hong Kong veteran, even so this film feels like it was made by a freshman with a lot to learn still. The action is clunky, performances are weak and the pacing issues are plentiful. It's difficult to imagine someone with Chan's history would make something so sloppy. Not quite the worst of its kind, but no doubt a big disappointment.

Don't Look Up

2009 / 98m - South Africa
Horror
2.0*/5.0*
Don't Look Up poster

Durian Durian

Liulian Piao Piao
2000 / 116m - Hong Kong
Drama
2.0*/5.0*
Durian Durian poster

Heart of the Dragon

Long De Xin
1985 / 91m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Heart of the Dragon poster

Plain forgettable

Public Toilet

Hwajangshil Eodieyo?
2002 / 102m - Hong Kong
Drama
1.5*/5.0*
Public Toilet poster