Director: Kevin Ko
Cast: Bryant Chang, Maria Ozawa, Jerry Huang,
Julianne Chu, Joseph Ma, Vivi Ho, Adrian Lin, Yang Li Si,
Kao Yin-Hsuan, Kristian Brodie
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: R21 (Violence And Sexual Scenes)
Opening Day: 1 October 2009
young men and women often dream of the unreachable life of
the world’s idle rich. Wade, Richard, Hitomi, Holly
and Lin certainly do. They have all received an invitation
to an exclusive party held by a group of rich & famous
people, obviously addressed to them by mistake. But all the
same, they attend.
is the best party ever, a wishing game takes place where their
deepest desires materialize. But when they find Richard’s
body brutally killed, the wishing game turns into a killing
game in which they are the tortured victims and a rich audience
the sadistic spectators. To escape from the party and survive
is now their only dream.
Whoever would have thought that the Taiwanese can be just as sick and depraved as the Eastern Europeans? As far as “Invitation Only” goes, torture porn is as much a form of entertainment in their territory as it is in places like Slovak. And worse still- it is high society, the rich and wealthy, who are the ones partaking in torture porn as their preferred entertainment choice.
Such is the premise of what has been touted to be Taiwan’s first slasher film. Five ordinary working class people receive invitations to what is apparently a party for high society, with the promise that they will have their wishes come true written at the back of their cards. But true to the adage that nothing comes free in life, the five of them- a chauffeur, a nurse, a beautician, a wanna-be politician and a piano teacher- are no more than bait for a sick, sick party where the who’s who of high society come and watch them get butchered on stage.
Just a sampling of what is the night’s entertainment- the wanna-be politician is first strapped down, stripped to his knickers, and then electrocuted via two crocodile clips attached to a car battery on one end and pinched onto his genitals on the other. All this happens while the audience, dressed to their nines, sits at their tables sipping their glasses of wine, watches in fascination and applauds while the victim is writhing in pain in front of them.
Yes, if torture porn a la “Hostel” ain’t your sort of thing, you’re not likely to find this pleasurable at all. Clearly inspired, even enamoured by Hollywood’s recent lure for the genre, director Kevin Ko has preserved the former’s love for blood and guts in his debut feature to satisfy audiences thirsting for such forms of vicarious distractions. And in between the various graphic portrayals of gore and violence, Ko has fashioned a fairly effective suspense piece that will keep you on tenterhooks (pun intended).
“Invitation Only’s” visceral appeal is also enhanced by the cast of pretty young things. There’s “Eternal Summer’s” boyish-looking Bryant Cheng as eye candy for the girls, and sweet, cutie-pie Julianne for the guys. Not forgetting of course Japanese AV actress Maria Ozawa in a bit role, with the bulk of her screen time spent doing what she does best on-screen.
But certainly, in order to justify the depravity in the movie, “Invitation Only” tries to explain just how this sadistic means of entertainment came to be. Here, writers Chang Chia-Cheng and Carolyn Lin play on the growing unease between the have and the have-nots in society, an issue that became particularly heated in Taiwan back in the year 2007. Be that as it may, the notion of the wealthy striking back at the frustration and distrust directed towards them in such a twisted manner just seems a tad far-fetched.
Indeed, what hints that “Invitation Only” may be some sort of social commentary should be best forgotten. This is through and through a film meant to gratify those looking for some primitive thrills by way of graphic scenes of torture and violence. On that account, “Invitation Only” is an impressive first effort for director Kevin Ko as well as for Taiwanese cinema, and just goes to show that whether in Europe or this side of the globe, certain primal pleasures are universal.
(If torture porn is your thing, Taiwan’s first slasher film has enough gore and violence to satisfy your guilty pleasures)
Review by Gabriel Chong