Hospitals are generally institutions where you would expect to depart with your health restored. But sometimes situations can require a long stay and involve specific treatment. Bed bound and suffering from acute post-traumatic stress disorder following the death of his wife, a patient has conflicting needs. The need to kill is most definitely on his mind, the main issue lies with who he should kill. Is it himself or is it the patient in the adjacent bed – a patient who he may or may not know and who may or may not have a past that is somehow connected with his own and his current situation? His memory is unreliable to say the least and matters are not made easier by his treatment, which involves the administration of a new type of drug that causes hallucinations and nightmares… or are they recollections? The baseball matches showing on the television are just not enough of a distraction when death beckons…
Terracotta have a lovely custom of showing a brief sequence, before the film’s start, where the director introduces their work to the audience. So, as instructed by Owen Cho, Desire to Kill is a humorous film – albeit a humour that is deeply dark and occasionally leaves the viewer wondering quite how the extremities and grotesque behaviour on show should be regarded as humour. And this is the point, for Desire to Kill mixes its genres in a number of ways but retains its strong sense of setting as memories, if they are actually such, are recollected or hallucinated. Part noir, part murder mystery, and with scenes of physically impaired characters attempting a variety of gangster inspired grievous bodily harm to the mixture, their motivations and relationships – and the way these constantly change – make for dramatically engaging viewing.
The way that the plot develops includes background revelations, from the initial hospital incarceration that works like a violent Waiting for Godot, to eventual revelations as to who the characters are, why they are there and what their relationships are or were (if indeed there are any) outside of the infirmary environment. As a viewer this effect is as disorientating as it is for the protagonists; it is as though your memory, or at least understanding, of the situation is being revealed in the same piecemeal fashion as those of the central characters. And what characters they are, their understandable petty insolence associated with being sick patients enduring an enforced stay in a hospital bed escalates to appalling, reprehensible actions. Additionally, staffing becomes an issue for those on all sides of the ward and creates some of the film’s moments of resolution and confusion, something that is essential both for the patients and the viewer.
At times shockingly violent, often grotesquely immoral and requiring a degree of concentration even when matters appear to be clear, Desire to Kill is clever, witty, sick and well constructed. It never seeks to do anything other than entertain, even if it occurs in a thoroughly nasty way.
Desire To Kill is released on DVD on the 20th August.