Ivan Lai follows up his infamous Daughter of Darkness with more of the same…
Ivan Lai’s 1993 Daughter of Darkness, in which a young woman murders her family after being repeatedly raped by her evil father, stands out as one of the most shocking Category III films of all time, even when compared to the director’s other works, including the likes of Ancient Chinese Whorehouse and The Peeping Tom. Unwilling to rest on his laurels, Lai returned the next year with Daughter of Darkness 2, another tale of a horribly abused young woman taking revenge, which tries its best to out-do its predecessor, if not through nastiness then through bizarre bad-taste comedy.
The film opens in familiar fashion, with bumbling cop Sergeant Yan (Liu Kai Chi, more recently in Imprisoned: Survival Guide for Rich and Prodigal) getting excited after being called to the scene of a homicide in a small town in which an entire family has been slaughtered. Confident that the case will give his career a boost, Yan eventually tracks down and interrogates prime suspect Sau (Linda Cheung, Raped by an Angel), and the film flips into flashback mode as she tells him her tragic story. As its revealed, Sau and her husband Ken (Ben Ng, The Eternal Evil of Asia) were very much in love, though were unable to have a child after he was left incapable of sex following an accident. Desperate for Sau to conceive, the couple turns to all-round nice guy Kun (Dick Lau, Naked Killer) to help by sleeping with her, which he duly does, with Ken holding her hand all the while. Matters become more complicated when Sau and Kun start seeing each other on the side, only for them to be caught in the act by the creepy Hung (William Ho, Daughter of Darkness), who blackmails them, taking her hostage with his family and subjecting her to monstrous abuse.
In narrative terms, Daughter of Darkness 2 is clearly a very similar film to the original, and one which sticks very closely to the true-crime confessional template laid down by Herman Yau with his classic The Untold Story. As usual with Lai, the film is an incredibly distasteful piece of exploitation cinema, devoid of the kind of social commentary which underlies much of Yau’s Category III work, going instead for far more straightforward sleaze and shocks. While not up to the same level of gore and sexual violence of the first Daughter, the sequel is perhaps even more disturbing thanks to a truly outlandish and wildly inappropriate sense of humour – this can probably be best summed up by the fact that the first twenty minutes or so basically just consist of masturbation jokes, as the intrepid Yan investigates semen found at the crime scene by getting suspects to pleasure themselves in front of him.
Things don’t get any more sensible after the film finally gets down to what should have been more serious business, with Sau’s rape and torture being intercut with countless shots of Yan mugging for the camera, and with a series of very odd gags. This gives Daughter of Darkness 2 a crazily uneven feel, and it makes even less sense than the rest of Lai’s output, which is no mean feat – it’s genuinely hard to know what he was aiming for with the film, with few other Category III howlers having pushed the envelope quite so far in terms of questionable comedy.
What’s perhaps even more strange is the fact that Daughter of Darkness 2 is a surprisingly well-made film, by Category III standards at least, with some of the early drama scenes between Sau and Ken being genuinely quite touching, something which could have given the later graphic nastiness a real edge, if it weren’t for Lai’s bizarro sense of humour. This is mainly due to Linda Cheung’s excellent lead turn, the actress adding real gravitas to her role and making her easy to root for, with a performance that really deserved a better film. Though Liu Kai Chi is no Anthony Wong, clearly modelling his incompetent cop on Wong’s Officer Lazyboots from the first film, the rest of the cast are all solid, with Category III veteran William Ho again proving himself only too capable at playing the most nauseating of villains.
Daughter of Darkness 2 clearly isn’t a film for everyone, even hardened Category III fans or those who enjoyed the original and found themselves desperate for more of the same. While on paper it might sound like yet another of the genre’s rape and revenge thrillers, Ivan Lai instead seems determined to have turned it into a sicko madcap comedy, making it one only for completists and the terminally curious.