Red Nights (DVD)

Red NightsStarring Frédérique Bel, Carrie Ng, Carole Brana

Directed by Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud

Distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures

In true giallo fashion, Red Nights is a truly international film with a mixed cast and crew and three different places of production – Hong Kong, France, and Belgium.

Directed by a team of men (Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud) and starring three strong women (Carrie Ng, Fréderique Bel, and Carole Brana), Red Nights is a beautiful, colorful journey into very dark territory. Pleasure and pain blur in an erotic torture chamber where the bad and the good are punished just the same. There’s an art nouveau flair to the rooms that entomb the doomed, while black gloves and jade finger-claws dole out the sex and death.

The crime-thriller aspect of this modern giallo centers on the pursuit of a magical elixir. During the reign of the first emperor of China, a cunning sadist under his command concocted a potion that paralyzed its victims’ extremities, while increasing the sensitivity of their nerve endings tenfold. Doled out from a jade skull, this liquid could provoke sensations in infinite variations from soft caresses to cruel cuts. Legend has it the alchemist killed himself with his own poison, and the skull was never found. In spite of a curse that’s said to bring misfortune to all of those who possess it, there are still plenty who want to take that chance.

But it’s more about the slow burn than it is a crime caper. It delivers in the horror department, as far as not shying away from slow, torturous deaths at the jade-claw hands of Carrie (Ng). Cruel Carrie has stopped at nothing to possess the ancient treasure that surfaced in the hands of a mysterious blonde named Catherine (Frédérique Bel), and she’s eager to try it out on victims – willing and unwilling.

There’s plenty of erotic imagery here, including nods to various fetishes – vinyl violation, foot fixation, and some really wicked knife play and flay. While the film’s sleek exterior is all giallo, within its breast beats a Hostel heart. (Just imagine a mash-up between Sergio Martino and Takashi Miike!)

While the acting is all aces, it’s the look and feel of the film that’s the true star. The sexy score and breathy, beating-heart sound design is as arresting as French composer Seppuku Paradigm’s previous works for such films as Martyrs and Eden Log. (In fact, they won Best Score at Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival for Red Nights.) And if that’s not enough red for you, the movie was shot on the Red One, with luscious results from DP Man-Ching Ng (who has a number of martial arts films and hard-boiled crime thrillers under his belt).

While Red Nights does have its slow spots (more than a few… but such is the case in the giallo genre, more often than not – and we fans happily tolerate it), it’s well worth a look for that niche audience who appreciate a bit of beauty in their horror.

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Staci Layne Wilson

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