‘I will kill…all of the wolves’

A detective with a dilemma faces a creepy criminal conundrum in writer-director Danny Pang’s visually enthusiastic, high concept serial killer/crime/horror film. Horror elements from The Eye (2002) are present with the supernatural themes surpassed by the more surreal aspects of the genre. These are complemented by the police/terrorist action of the Pang brothers’ Bangkok Dangerous (1999) to enhance the ‘real world’ prime concept serial killer theme. Think Se7en (1995) with far more style and art. And shock jump tactics. So something for everyone, unless you are prone to scares and think that fairy stories are just for children.

Wong Wai Han (Ching Wan Lau) is an inspector in the police force. Commander Chang doesn’t have much hope for Han’s prospects at passing the long attempted promotion exams and his wife is concerned that his autistic son Shu’s relationship with his father is becoming increasingly strained. Han becomes involved in a case where an arrested perpetrator Jan (Baoqiang Wang), doused in chalky-white make-up, states in a deliberately mocking tone that ‘I killed people’, and gives the identity of a person recently deceased. When the victim is found to be very much alive Jan is released, despite his sinister demeanour. Matters become more bizarre when the alleged victim is later found very murdered indeed, with traces of chalky-white makeup on the ground around the corpse but nothing otherwise specifically linking Jan to the death, other than a confession when the victim was alive. The murder was definitely most foul, as all the best murder is in these sort of films. The victim was sedated long enough to be filled with stones, like a frog in the fairy tales, ensuring a hideous demise. He is the first in a series of bizarre and gruesome deaths that likewise seem to be inspired, even in a highly modern context, from fairy tales, those morality stories narrated to children from times past to the present day, where princes and princesses, children and heroes encounter dangerous situations, witches, demons and devils. The crimes are elaborate and instigated towards specific people. Perhaps in some way its purpose is to seek fairy tale vengeance. The possible perpetrator Jan seeks to guard Yue-Yee (Elanne Kwong), an autistic artist who was brought up with Jan at the Chi You Orphanage, an institution that was anything but sympathetic and helpful to her needs on a medical level or even human level.

Danny Pang’s approach to Fairy Tale Killer lies with the careful balance of realism and surrealism to produce a narrative that is part drama, part horror film. It takes in family concerns and departmental police issues with revelations as to the background and motives behind the killings. And Jan is a distinctive element, with his confessional deliberations mocking the police; with his chalky white face make-up he is The Joker on benefits. More notable is his relationship with Yue-Yee, whose art is based upon fairy tales and which matches her distinct gothic appearance and character. This, coupled with her autism, makes her role in the narrative complex on a number of levels. This is complemented by story of Han’s son Shu, who has a similar artistic and autistic background, although the implication is that the presence of available, employed, parents will aid his development as a person. Jan’s declaration that ‘I’m not a devil’ could be wilful or delusional, but it could actually link to the way that he perceives society and authority, particularly in they way they treat orphans and those with physical and mental needs. His outlet for this is grotesque unpleasantness, especially when a notable fairy tale performance for children in a nicely decorated shopping mall turns into horror when one of the victims of Jan’s savage fairy tale interpretation of killing wolves is revealed on stage. This is just one of the film’s many set pieces that keeps up the pace in a stylised and imaginative manner. Similarly, standard examples of police procedure are filmed in a manner familiar to that genre but are balanced with shock, action or montage that help ensure that the story extends beyond a simple tick list of the next perceived downfall that can otherwise befall the ‘serial killer with a catalogue of demises’ film.

Horror for people who like police dramas or a police drama for those who like horrors.