From the mind of one time writer/director/editor and otherwise cinematographer Tom Lau comes this gloomy Hong Kong horror of the early 80s that has built its reputation (despite being relatively rare) by being dark, shock full of effort and for possessing a finely tuned usage of the European (specifically Italian) influence within its horror story. The Rape After (the English title describes the events within pretty badly actually) presents a pronounced unsympathetic character, intent to scare and effort to scare via special effects make-up that tells you this crew had a visionary at the top that demanded more, the best and something else for its audience. Unfortunately, few followed suit and Tom Lau never directed again. Looking at how The Rape After is executed, especially its second half, I would argue that the decision was sound because you do want to go out on this type of blue lit high.
Fashion photographer Mo (Melvin Wong) steals a statue from the set of a commercial shoot and hooks up with one of his new models, Shu Ya (Shrila Chun). On their drunken night together, the statue comes to life and has sex with Shu Ya. Knowing nothing of that event the day after, Shu Ya turns out to be pregnant and when accompanied by Mo to an abortion clinic that is attacked by the evil in the statue, it's clear a furious spirit has been set loose. Even more so when Shu Ya dies in a car accident and Mo survives, he moves on to designer Ting Ting (Chang Hing-Yue) and her family. A family who's after the one who stole the statue protected by ancient scrolls meant to keep secrets buried and the evil locked inside it...
Possibly a bit too overcrowded with connections and connections simply swept under the rug (more on this below), Tom Lau does aim and succeed at making us feel very uncomfortable with a gloomy, dark, sinister and evil atmosphere that makes Hong Kong seem like it's under a veil of constant doom. Starting with Shu Ya teaching her retarded brother Doggie to serve tea, it's the start of the view of her family history and secrets that means we won't be seeing sunshine anytime soon. Due to the Doggie angle not being elaborated on more though, it's questionable content there for shock and discomfort but I don't see discomfort as failed steps in the ride provided by Lau here (smoke and ambient sounds are fine tools employed by Lau as well). It's part of this particular Hong Kong and part of the creation of a curse/haunted house/zombie movie being assembled here.
The tactics with windows slamming, lightning strikes out of nowhere etc are clichés for sure but Lau has a knack for dealing well with them as well as injecting freaky imagery of his own. In particular what you might call the titular rape is a strangely sexy and disturbing scene with actress Shrila Chun and another actor in full monster make-up getting it on slowly, surrounded by said visual, old school tactics and it's pretty glorious how Lau sets himself apart from horror movies at the time. For sure Hong Kong had its effective bouts with curses and black magic but Tom Lau, perhaps by evoking European and gothic horror influences, strikes a different chord compared to other efforts of the time dealing more in the horrors of the East.
Possibly Lau's script that does bring in Eastern spirituality, beliefs and superstition is making a comment that beliefs in it has been reduced to the older generation only as Melvin Wong has no qualms about stealing the statue and removing with yellow paper incantations on it. It's merely a possession, as are women and despite dealing in subsequent death and participating in needed exorcisms, it's not a character we ever side with. Strangely enough very ok as attachments to characters aren't of huge importance. The ride is.
Both families focused on carry past sins with them, Shu Ya's family more openly so as it turns out the mother is cursing the missing father that is in fact rotting in the closet and there's no remorse considering he had none when he cheated on her. No wonder Shu Ya's rebellion turns out deadly and while this family are a part of the plot, once Shu Ya dies, we never hear of the reactions or anything from this side of the story ever again.
But Tom Lau instead makes substantial room for the second half exercise starting with half a cheesy and half a terrifying autopsy where a devil fetus emerges and eats the head of a doctor. It's borderlining on cheesy because it's only the ending where Lau is really nailing the appearances of supernatural evil. He's better at employing the curse angle, especially in Ha Ping's scene (the maid in Ting Ting's family) where she's possessed and hacks of her fingers slowly with a butcher knife. A tour de force in make-up and spooky atmosphere, creepy kids, birds and zombies make appearances in atmospheric blue and it's hard not to think of Lucio Fulci imagery from City Of The Living Dead and even Dario Argento's Suspiria as Lau is on a spooky roll all till the end. His larger monster action and possession mixes extremely well and the imprint of The Rape After is neatly solidified. From an era of the physical make-up effect, from a select time where Tom Lau and crew decided it was time to scare the Hong Kong audiences. And today, it still is a consistently creepy and scary ride.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson