It’s always interesting to see the debut film of a master filmmaker. It could be a brilliant slice of cinema that shows us genius from the beginning — like, say, John Cassavetes’s Shadows. Or, like Takashi Miike’s Red Hunter: Prelude to Kill, it could be a total pile of shit that offers no glimpse of the skills and talents to come. A sign of things to come or total turd, these feature debuts from talented people are fascinating. In 2010, Bowie Lau, director of The Deadly Camp, directed a film called Kung Fu Hip Hop 2. Seven years before that, he made a film called Kung Fu Master Is My Grandma!. No, unless I’m totally misjudging those titles, Bowie Lau is definitely not a master filmmaker. But The Deadly Camp is his feature debut, and it’s fascinating in its own right.
THE DEADLY CAMP
original title: 山狗1999 (Shan gou 1999)
Hong Kong, 1999, Bowie Lau
The Deadly Camp features a character called Pervert. It also features a character called Blowie. Anthony Wong is in the film for about ten seconds, and, within that ten seconds, he gives a handjob to an intellectually disabled person (credited less sensitively as “Retarded guy”). The intellectually disabled person seems to be dubbed over by a crying baby. Someone gets decapitated. A torso hangs from something. There’s a chainsaw. And a Rambo-esque trap. Lots of people die, including Anthony Wong.
Everything in-between is kind of a blur. Some guys and gals are going on a holiday to a really grim looking island. I think. One of them has a DV camera with incredible night vision abilities. There’s also some gangsters on the island — their leader is Anthony Wong — maybe they weren’t gangsters… I don’t know. On the island, there’s the aforementioned intellectually disabled guy and his bandage-face dad who kills anyone that messes with his son. It’s like Friday the 13th. Only dumber.
In its ridiculous moments and its violent moments, The Deadly Camp is actually pretty fun. Being from 1999, there’s an overwhelming amount of Dutch tilts, but, for the most part, it’s a decently shot and lit affair. The problem with its more exploitative scenes is that this has been brutalised by its CAT IIB rating. If this was free to be a disgusting pile of filth, I feel it would be amazing. There seems to be significant censorship thrust upon this. Shots look trimmed. The gore is brief or not shown at all. Weird bits, like a scene of inappropriate urination, are cut short. If this had a CAT III rating, it would probably be brilliant.
The Deadly Camp‘s boring bits are really boring. I zoned out regularly. Through entire conversations, my ears sealed shut and my vision glazed. I could not give a fuck about any of the film’s heroes. I greeted their deaths with blissful relief because it meant one less grinding voice. To be fair, this is keeping with slasher movie tradition. There’s very few Friday the 13th sequels where I’ve not been rooting for Jason.
While it’s not exactly successful, it’s interesting to see Hong Kong’s take on the slasher genre. There’s enough requisite weirdness to make this worthwhile, and there’s even a handful of scenes are border on being effective. It’s rare that a post-97 Hong Konger is even watchable, so, if you’re running low on Hong Kong filth, give this a shot.
The Deadly Camp is available on a shitty DVD. If you’re in Hong Kong, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid at DVD shops. I bought it for a buck.