When it comes to Hong Kong Horror movies their deliberately over-the-top mix of sex and violence, Category III Horror cinema, is best viewed as their last great shot of ‘fuck-you-anything-goes-freedom-of-expression’ across the communist regime’s bow before the handover to China in 1997 (which had led to some actors and filmmakers, like John Woo, fleeing the city).
As a formerly British colony, Hong Kong’s Category III Horror movies enjoyed the artistic freedoms of the west, the monied influence of European art house auteurs and the captive, ravenous audiences for grindhouse fare that only Asia can produce. Combined, these unique factors led to some of the most outrageous, inventive and downright disgusting exploitation films of the last century like the infamous soft core Horror ‘Erotic Ghost Story‘ or the 1996 champion of poor taste, ‘Ebola Syndrome‘.
While China never officially cracked down on expression in the Hong Kong colony, the golden age of Category III Horror is seen to have lasted between 1988 and 1997 before cautious filmmakers had fled, retired or hung up their gross-out gloves to avoid a boxing match with Chinese censors. If you’ve never experienced the world of Hong Kong’s Category III films then buckle up, we’ve picked 5 killer Category III Horror Movies from Hong Kong to get you started.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)
One of the granddaddies of all Category III Horror cult hits, “Riki Oh: The Story Of Ricky” follows our “Hero”, Ricky, incarcerated for assault and manslaughter in a futuristic prison who survives by resorting to more extreme violence against whomever gets in his way. Considered to be one of, if not the most violent movies of all time, The Story of Ricky is non stop slaughterthon without any consideration of continuity, believability or good taste. The only time you can catch your breath from laughing is to pick your jaw up from the floor. Highly recommended.
Also, any movie that gives us this classic GIF must be seen.
Dr. Lamb (1992)
Another well known Category III Horror film, “Dr. Lamb” (1992) follows an abnormal taxi driver who lusts for blood every time it rains, leading to several young women being horrifically killed as a grizzled detective hunts him down. Based on a real case from Hong Kong, this police procedural jumps between almost slapstick comedy and downright brutal violence in a way that only this genre can. Incredibly hard to find in an uncut version, this one is begging for a Vinegar Syndrome or Arrow re-release!
The Blue Jean Monster (1991)
A cop comes back from the dead to avenge his own murder all while his body is decomposing and his marriage is on the rocks. One part Robocop, one part Dead Heat, all weird, ‘The Blue Jean Monster‘ is a classic slice of 1990s Hong Kong Horror Movie madness, and has been long been a favourite of Category III Horror film fans. Having earned itself quite a reputation over the years as a truly bizarre bad taste mixture of police thriller, gory horror, slapstick comedy and domestic drama, this is an awesome intro to the surreal world of 90s Hong Kong cinema. Another very hard to find film, there was an excellent ‘Legendary Edition’ DVD of ‘The Blue Jeans Monster’ released a decade back, but it’s sadly out of print.
The Untold Story: Human Meat Roast Pork Buns (1993)
One of Hong Kong’s most notorious Category III Horror films ever made, The Untold Story: Human Meat Roast Pork Buns (what a title!) features everything that makes extreme HK cinema so unique: brutality, seriously dark comedy and insane energy that spills off the screen in every scenery chewing performance. Reportedly a true story, the film follows a down on his luck gambler who’s secret recipe for Pork Buns has bodies washing up in Kowloon bay and the police at his door. Sweeping the Hong Kong film awards on release, this one’s considered to be not only the best Category III Horror film, but one of the best Hong Kong made films of all time.
From the depths of Kong Kong’s Category III Horror film history comes Men Behind The Sun (Hei Tai Yang 731), a “holy shit this actually happened” account of one of history’s most brutal and sadistic war crimes, the story of Unit 731, brought to the screen in 1988 by director T.F. Mous. Covered in our ‘most disturbing films of all time‘ list, this one lives up to its reputation as one of the most violent, stomach churning and realistic depictions of WW2’s brutality and also on of Hong Kong’s most epic, over the top gore-fests ever put to film.