And I really wish we had a better example to show you, but… this is the letter W.
Way back when, in the early 90s, when we just beginning to wake up to the cool stuff that was then happening in Hong Kong cinema, I bought a lot of sketchy, blurry things called VHS tapes through the mail. What had propelled me down this path was The Incredibly Strange Film Show, which devoted half an episode to Tsui Hark (the other half, as I recall, was Stuart Gordon). One movie that was high on my list was Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain, and the other was We’re Going to Eat You. I didn’t care too much for the latter, so it was high time to check it out again, with a better quality picture and improved subtitles.
I suppose the movie lets you know where you’re going to stand from the very beginning, which opens with a piss joke. Two travelers have just come to this island and are looking for the town, and one of them has to keep stopping to pee. The one who can hold his water gets killed by a masked gang of knife-wielders, and if you resented the other one for having such a lame running joke, that’s okay, because the masked guys strap him down to a table and bisect his middle with a cross-cut saw. He was probably going to die from dehydration, anyway.
You see, this town is populated by insane cannibals (yes, this is one of the many movies that also carries the title Kung Fu Cannibals), and the cannibals are ruled by the despotic Chief of Police (Eddy Ko). The masked men are his supposed police force, who trap unwary travelers and butcher them for the “cafeteria”. The Chief puts aside way more meat for himself and his men than is fair, and the other cannibals are grumbling about it.
Enter the dapper Secret Agent 999 (Norman Chu), who is hunting the fugitive bandit Rolex (Melvin Wong). Rolex, we’re pretty sure, is the Chief’s right hand man, the one who is actually competent. Rolex’s identity is confirmed when he lets 999 in on the village’s cannibalistic secret – Rolex refuses to become a cannibal himself, and he knows the Chief will never let him leave the village alive. The trouble is, 999 is a bit of a dim bulb himself, and doesn’t realize that the guys who keep trying to kill him are the Chief’s men. Ergo, Rolex, being a bandit and all, must be lying. Complicating matters even more is a traveling thief (Hon Kwok Choi) who also tries to report the violent gustatory inclinations of the villagers… to the Chief.
You’re going to run into two problems with We’re Going to Eat You. The first is the story, which gets off to a terrific start and then has absolutely no idea what to do with itself. After 999 introduces himself to the Chief, and the Chief tells him that Rolex has been sighted hanging around the town’s slaughterhouse, 999 walks there, gathering quite a crowd as he goes. Before he enters, the village applauds him, which he accepts with a bow. Then he steps into the deathtrap, and there is a tremendous fight. 999 escapes – barely – but that is where the meandering starts, as does the viewer’s irritation.
The other problem is going to be cultural. This is a horror comedy, and comedy changes across cultures. I’m still not sure what to make of the seven-foot tall lovesick drag queen character. I think it is actually supposed to be a tremendously ugly woman (and the guy is playing his role to the hilt), but… well, uncomfortable is the operative word, here.
There are likable bits here and there. The fights – early work by Corey Yuen – are frequent and quite creative. There’s a fair amount of blood, but you kind of wish Stuart Gordon had wandered over from the other half of the The Incredibly Strange Film Show to deliver some pointers on the effective use of gore.
Director Tsui Hark’s output has been fairly uneven; when he’s on, his movies are amazing. When he’s not, though, you start to wonder who sneaked into the director’s chair while you weren’t looking (then again – what director can’t you say that about?). While We’re Going to Eat You doesn’t quite ever get so bad you’re tempted to turn it off, its inability to tell its own story – or even decide which character that story belongs to – with any confidence is both irritating and off-putting. This early in his career, though – this is only his second movie, after The Butterfly Murders – it’s more forgivable.
Here, have the original trailer with some purloined Goblin: