"Human Lanterns has a fine balance of well-choreographed martial arts, a hint of horror and a pleasant amount of gore."
- Mighty Peking Man
Human Lanterns (1982)
AKAL Human Skin Lanterns
Director: Suen Chung
Cast: Lau Wing, Lo Lieh, Chen Kuan Tai, Tim Lei, Sun Chien, Choh Seung Wan, Lam Sau Kwan, Lo Meng, Ngaai Fei, Siu Yam Yam
Running Time: 91 min.
Plot: One of the most talked about cult films ever made--a masterpiece of the macabre, the martial arts, and the just plain weird. Lo Lieh stars as the insane swordsman who makes Chinese lamps from--yes--the skin of his enemies' sisters, mistresses, and wives!
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Long before Anthony Wong was serving human Chinese “pork” buns, Lo Lieh was kidnapping woman, brutally murdering them, then making beautiful Chinese lanterns out of their freshly peeled human skin.
One thing I like about Human Lanterns is that it’s very easy to follow. I don’t know about you guys, but when watching some of these Shaw Brothers flicks, I tend to pause and rewind - sometimes numerous times - certain scenes because I have a hard time following plots. I’m not sure if it’s because the Chinese names or whatever (or maybe I’m just dumb?), but 60% of the time, I really have to pay extra attention, otherwise, I find myself lost.
With a film like Human Lanterns, everything is crystal clear. It’s almost as if Suen Chung puts himself in the viewers’ shoes when he’s planning his storytelling process. The characters are well thought out with a flash of differentiation (Lau Wing and Chen Kuan Tai have a great chemistry). There’s mystery, but no real twisty secrets that many films rely on. Everything is pretty much in-your-face with no bullshit attached.
Human Lanterns has a fine balance of well-choreographed martial arts, a hint of horror and a pleasant amount of gore. As you’d probably expect, action is still the main showcase of the movie. With a title like Human Lanterns, you’d expect a lot of explicit imagery; there is, but not a whole lot, but as long as you’re expecting a “kung fu movie” first, you’ll be pleased if you’re hunting for a dose of shock value.
I wonder how this flick would turn out in the brutality department if someone like Chang Cheh directed it (I have a feeling the guy would go nuts over the blood and gore), but as it stands, Suen Chung did a great job as is and any drastic change would only lesson the film’s appeal.
Human Lanterns is my first and only venture into the films of Suen Chung. Judging from what I saw here, I wouldn’t mind checking out more of his work.
Look for memorable guest appearances by Venoms Lo Meng (as a contract killer) and Sun Chien (as a cop).
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 8/10