Officer Rockman Cheung (Mark Cheng) has just lost his infant son to an extremely horrifying death and at the same time, his wife Karpi (Maggie Siu) has practically gone insane because of this tragedy and the constant, needle-like pain she is experiencing all over her body. The doctors are unable to determine the source and feel it is psychosomatic and suggest that Rockman take her to see a psychologist. But when some of Rockman’s fellow police officers start dying nasty deaths with hints of ritualism, it is determined that Gong Tau, the Eastern equivalent of voodoo, is at work and Rockman and his fellow officers are the target. Who is actually behind these gruesome deaths and why, is all revealed in a fairly enjoyable throwback to Hong Kong’s blood-soaked horror “extreme” movies of the ’90s. It’s been awhile since a decent Category III – the equivalent to the Western X or NC-17 – horror movie has come out of Hong Kong but Gong Tau is here to remedy this problem…maybe.
Director Herman Yau delivers a slick and stylish looking horror film that may not be as gritty or perverse as Yau’s other entries in this genre, films like The Untold Story or Ebola Syndrome, but Gong Tau still delivers all the sex, violence and gore one expects even if it is a tad more subdued than its counterparts. The film simply moves forward as more back story is revealed and more questions answered all heading to the inevitable showdown that just doesn’t match the expectations the film did a fairly decent job leading up to. Until then though, the film moves along briskly and never falters with boring, unneeded sub-plots or unnecessary character development. Although, character motivations are put into question, and some of the actions taken may leave the viewer feeling less than sympathetic towards some of the characters and their plight.
Everyone delivers pretty decent performances, although the main characters demonstrate such even-headed emotions, the acting is almost to the point of deadpan. The majority of the actors in the film are likable, even when they do not illicit any sympathy, yet their emotional range never goes far past just acting serious. No matter what is going on around some of the people in Gong Tau, no matter how fantastic or horrifying, they will stay fairly somber throughout and exhibit nothing much more than a concerned stare. The exception to this would be Maggie Siu, who spends most of the movie screaming in pain or in bouts of hysterics.
This type of acting is what hurts the film a bit for Western viewers as let’s face it, voodoo just isn’t that scary any more and not taken very seriously. The ultra-serious tone of some of the line delivery such as “My wife has the Gong Tau” being delivered with a straight face and seriousness, may illicit unintentional giggles to anyone not familiar with the culture and its superstitions. But even though the subject matter may not be as scary as the movie tries to portray, it is all filmed well, with the rituals filmed in a way that echoes the opening sequence to Se7en and using everything from blood and incantations to semen and corpse fat, the later two ingredients making a combined appearance in a humiliating yet memorable ritual.
Gong Tau earns it’s adult rating right off the bat, with the beginning of the film containing a death that would not be seen in mainstream theaters in the US. By the middle of the film, it is in full swing as the sick factor ramps up and the effects of Gong tau is shown in all it’s bloody glory. Asian Legend handles the gore – displaying maggoty babies, convincing autopsies, self-decapitations, an extremely messy hand injury and a whole lot more. While most of these effects are handled well, some of the CGI enhanced effects fair a little worse, only because it is very noticeable CGI. This is especially apparent in one of the funniest looking effects in a movie, shown at the films climax, that you cannot help but laugh at. Also moving the film firmly in adult territory is the abundance of nudity in the film, including full-frontal, mostly from the stunning Zi-Xuan Teng who plays Elli Lam, a love-struck pole dancer and a piece of the overall puzzle.
Definitely not the most brutal or the sickest of adult HK horror, with a screenplay and music that are just passable, Gong Tau is still a capable film and should satisfy the audience that it was made for. Lovers of the over-the-top and trashy should try and watch this one at least once.