Thursday, November 19, 2009

INVITATION ONLY (Taiwan; 2009)

D: Kevin Ko Mang-Yung
W: Carolyn Lin Chia-hua, Sung In

Taiwan's first slasher movie brings little innovation to the global form, but replicates the cadence and ultra-gory mechanics of American and European forebears like HOSTEL, SAW, MARTYRS and their kin with such a ruthless efficiency that it's almost forgivable to overlook a comparative lack of indigenous flavor, as well as talking points that might seem profound to the average 18-year-old. Gorehounds will surely be satisfied, at least on the level of technical artistry: this is extremely gooey stuff, well-crafted and glazed in warm, golden-grimy hues by DP James Yuan, about five working class strangers lured—under false pretenses—to an executive networking party for "second generation people" at a secluded, abandoned factory warehouse. They're swiftly "exposed" as unwashed social climbers and subjected to prolonged, torturous executions in front of an appreciative audience of the privileged class, who are sickened by the envy of those beneath them, but not so much so that they can't watch the poor saps have their faces and throats carved open. In short order, the quintet is gruesomely reduced to the resilient "Final Boy" (Bryant Chang) and the resourceful "Final Girl" (Julianne), who navigate a punishing gauntlet of narrow escapes, invasive instruments, corpses and body parts (generally not their own) in order to turn tables and open doors to a sequel. Stunt casting of Japanese hardcore starlet Maria Ozawa will no doubt appeal to her onanistic fanbase, and she photographs beautifully in clothes or out of them, but her acting skills aren't likely to push her further into the mainstream as much as her willingness to disrobe as thoroughly as she does here. Make-up effects by Fei Wen-pin and Huang Ming-chu are every bit the equal of their western counterparts. Director Ko makes his feature-length debut here, after buzzing local film festivals and the internet in 2004 with his impressive horror short THE PRINT.

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