THE PEEPING TOM (1997)
YOWZA! Japanese AV "actress" Miho Nimoto blazes up this poster for Ivan Lai Gai-ming's 1997 CAT III beauty, THE PEEPING TOM. Though only a bit player in the film, Miho is nips and bounds (See the movie. You'll get it. wakka wakka wakka) the main attraction. A few years past the CAT III prime, a film sporting this rating was usually a shot-on-vid embarrassment. This film, not so.
The degradation dependable Ivan Lai comes up with another genre winner. The Peeing Tom is Lai's 1996 effort to keep hope alive for the diminished Cat III industry and deserves a piece of the mantle along side his Daughter of Darkness films. The peeper of the title is a nasty throwback to the cut 'em up villains of the early 90's like Simon Yam's Dr. Lamb and Anthony Wong's Bunman. Mark Cheng gives a stylish and eerie performance as the sadist with a camcorder. Wielding an aluminum bat, he abducts beauties of the late night HK streets, takes them back to his den of ill repute, and films them as they scream bloody murder.
On a fateful day, Cheng, strolling the streets of HK with camera in tow witnesses and films a police shootout, and here, becomes infatuated with super lady cop Jade Leung. For the next hour it's a cat and mouse game as Leung and her police cohorts mount the usual worthless investigation and try to catch the perverted Cheng before he gets to his object of affection. The title of the film more than meets it's expectations. This isn't Cat I family fare and TPT delivers the goods in boobs-n-blood.
There are ample amounts of body parts on display, intact and dismembered, whatever your liking. Japanese beauty Miho Nomoto is exposed for most of her screen time, for no apparent plot reasons, but for the pervs in the audience, and she gives us a lesson in abstinence while in the shower. Along with the genres wagon load of nudity we also get the usual power tool to the flesh and rivers of blood. Cheng adopts his disaffected outsider with creepiness and impending psychosis. There's a great leg (pun intended-you'll see) in the film where Cheng freaks us out by pulling a Chungking Express Faye Wong-sans the Garfield stuffed animal-and sneaks into Leung's apartment.
Once inside he films her intimate surroundings, eats noodles, watches some anime, takes a bath, sniffs her under-things and enjoys a cat nap. All cool psycho behavior. But here's the rub that keeps it from the top of the genre heap. There is no rhyme or reason to his psychosis; he's just crazy for the films sake. The little reasoning offered at films end is poor and mars the effect of the previous hour and a half's madness.
The genre has been done to death, unfortunately, and the characterization of Cheng, which starts off promising, is reduced, into a flimsy carbon copy of the original baddies from the hey-day. That being said, the production is nicely mounted, as the city locales are well utilized. The direction by Lai is solid and the cinematography is atmospheric, colorful, and grimy enough for Cheng to hack into his work. It's all been done before but I don't care. TPT set out what it intended to do, shock and titillate. There's not much more you can ask of the genre.