A ruthless governor with a girl’s name turns against his former friends after his lust for pretty young Lotus takes a turn for the more sinister. Now in a position of great power, he has the lot of them violently tortured and brutalised. With power, said a great man (I believe it was Uncle Ben, the rice salesman) comes great responsibility. And also a free torture chamber, with which all involved are about to become intimately familiar.
It’s a period prison film, Category III style. A sequel to a low-budget exploitation movie not many people realise existed in the first place, A Chinese Torture Chamber 2 is a dark, serious tale of assassination, public executions and a woman tied up in a net. It’s more serious than its predecessor and not so much of a cult gem, but it is worth a go if you’re a fan of intricate oriental sleaze.
A cross between Caligula and Witchfinder General, the film offers a surprising amount of plot before the torture actually starts. “I haven’t seen such a nice horse in ages,” says one half of a team of would-be robbers, just before meeting the not-yet famous Ma. Waylaid by these criminals, Ma comes to realise that the chaps aren’t all bad, and they quickly form a firm friendship. It’s complicated somewhat by the arrival of Lotus – one of the thieves’ sister – but they part their ways a committed brotherhood, none of them aware of what the future holds. Hint: the film is not called A Chinese Torture Chamber for nothing.
Following these surprisingly effective scenes of male bonding and one lengthy, inexplicably disturbing sex scene, the film finally gets down to the main event. Watch your back, Alan from The Hangover – this is a tale of male bonding gone wrong. Already uptight and quite creepy, Ma is a changed man when they next meet. It doesn’t take long before he has his ‘brothers’ arrested and poked with sharp sticks.
As scenes of torture go, Chinese Torture Chamber 2 will surprise no-one familiar with oriental or Category III horror. It’s unpleasant and will make your skin crawl, but there’s so much worse out there that it merely sits somewhere in the middle of the subgenre. It’s the attention to detail (it looks great) and the effort it puts into its story and characterisation that really makes the film stand out. By spending so much time with the characters’ burgeoning friendship, you’ll actually give a modicum of a damn about them once the torture starts. It may not be the most gruesome thing on the market, but the film’s torture is creepier than most. There’s a giant gold dildo on a rotating stone wheel, a scene in which a woman performs fellatio on a massive paintbrush, and the matter of governor Ma’s biting fetish. It’s like The King and I meets Fifty Shades of Grey, or a period version of Tokyo Decadence at times. As mad Ma makes his ladyfriend wear a porcelain mask on her vagina while he thrusts at her with a giant paintbrush, it gets downright odd at times. The fetishised sexual violence is among the movie’s most disturbing elements, but there’s plenty to take your pick from.
There’s even a bit of fun to be had too, as a man in a ninja costume performs a jailbreak on the movie’s hapless victims, merrily chopping off a pair of arms and a head in the process. It’s a nice change of pace – a lovely distraction from people having boiling water poured down their ears and gold dildos being shoved up arses. Honourable mention must go to the film’s nets too, which is a sign of a better class of kidnapper. You don’t really get nets so much, these days.
A Chinese Torture Chamber 2 is a torture film with a better plot than most, delicate set design (apart from the goldmembers, maybe) and decent acting. It may not be as kitsch or as fun as its predecessor, but it’s worthwhile, all the same. It’s far better than any movie called A Chinese Torture Chamber has a right to be.
A Chinese Torture Chamber 2 – CAT III