Son of a shipping tycoon, photographer Shu Ching (Henry Yu) picks up Mei Bo (Mabel Kwong) on the side of the road after her car has broken down. Revealing he's a monster and raping her in the woods, despite an arrest Shu Ching has wealth and influence backing him up so he's found not guilty in court. Mei Bo leaves town but her journalist sister June (Flora Cheung - Duel To The Death) stays on and tries to push for distinct media coverage of the issue of rape that is swept under the rug more often than not. She's also the new target of Shu Ching...
Planting itself into the mix of rape-revenge and slasher movie, Ho Fan's Expensive Tastes is one of those reasons to follow the photographer/erotica director (Girl With The Long Hair, Yu Pui Tsuen II) and former actor (in the "Journey To The West" trilogy made at Shaw Brothers, playing the monk). Having a sharp eye but making distinctive cinema with it too (not slipping into arthouse), throughout his career he's shown a keen eye for the sexy, goofy and majestic and for Expensive Tastes he gets to practice how the exploitation genre mix would fare under his eye. As long as you leave logic and sense at home, it's a pretty wild ride.
Showcasing a striking point of view opening, photographs of women with cropped out heads and Henry Yu's fascination for cactuses, it will come to represent a movie that pours it on with the terror but does it in such a pronounced way that you don't mind enjoying actual tension AND snickering at the over the top nature of Henry Yu's actions. Despite Ho Fan knowing how to concoct pretty imagery, he's well in tune with the gritty nature of certain early 80s Hong Kong cinema and the style employed with usage of smoke, wide angle lenses and intense scenarios shows a visual artist believing in himself.
Borrowing beats from a plethora of rape revenge movies (even Taiwanese entries such as The Lady Avenger) and featuring quite on the nose drama about the unfair influence in the court proceedings, because this shaky nature to the drama (Henry Yu's psychological trauma and hate for women is pretty bare), Expensive Tastes become all about the effect it has a genre piece. An actual valid focus to have, throughout Ho Fan continues to up the ante in terms of what Henry Yu will and can do. Stalking sequences echoing feelings of the giallo-genre and setting up in particular an elaborate trap of terror for Flora Cheung late in the film, why Yu's über-clever character gets a pass is that even over the top inclusions like baking a human sized cake (in the form of a woman) to cut into really does strike a mix of chills and fun in the name of providing a terror ride.
It really is expensive tastes in terms of what Shu Ching CAN setup but combine that rather original fun, horror and Ho Fan getting more and more comfortable setting up his style as the movie rolls along, placing faults and positives next to each other makes them co-operate awfully well when they logically shouldn't have. Then again Ho Fan is clever enough to know the genre doesn't rely on logic and sense.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson