Chinese Torture Chamber 2 (1998) Movie Review

Wong Jing’s original “Chinese Torture Chamber Story” was an undisputed classic of the Category III genre, and one of the few which enjoyed any kind of mainstream success or recognition. Given this, and the veritable swamp of similar sleaze films already available for discerning fans, the inevitable sequel had a lot to live up to in order to stand out from the crowd. Since to most casual viewers Category III films in general are indistinguishable slices of dubious, lamentable non-entertainment, this was somewhat of a tall order.

Thankfully, at least for those who cares, “Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2” is indeed a worthy follow up, and though it does not quite live up to the insane legacy of its predecessor, it is a far superior example of the genre, and one which enjoys pleasingly decent production values whilst plumbing new depths of depravity. Of course, this in itself should be enough to start alarm bells ringing in the minds of any sensible viewer, and rightly so, as “Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2” contains liberal lashings of debauchery and some truly shocking, odious scenes of gore and sexual violence.

Whilst the original film justified its content through some vague claims of being based on an actual case of adultery from ancient times, this salacious sequel seems instead to have been inspired by some of the 1970s Shaw Brothers classics such as “All Men are Brothers”. Here, the story begins as Ma (Mark Cheng, who also played Category III villains in the likes of “Raped by an Angel” and “The Peeping Tom”) is waylaid by a couple of wretched bandits en route to taking up the position of general in the capital city. The two would-be robbers, Cheung (Wai Lam, who actually starred in “All Men are Brothers: Blood of the Leopard”) and Wong (Hung Yeung), turn out to be good men who have fallen on hard times, and after spending some quality time with them, Ma swears an oath of brotherhood, and that he will take care of them in the future.

Ma does seem to be a good sort, though during his stay he falls for Lotus (Yolinda Yam, giving a far more revealing performance than she did in John Woo’s classic “Bullet in the Head”), who happens to be Wong’s sister and the wife-to-be of the conveniently impotent Cheung. A few months later, the reformed bandits travel to the capital, and once more meet up with Ma, who is now the all-powerful governor. True to his word, Ma takes his friends under his wing, though it soon becomes clear that he is no longer the kind, friendly man they knew, and is instead now a cruel tyrant who is obsessed with crushing all who stand against him. Driven by an awful secret from his past and his lust for Lotus, Ma manipulates and ultimately imprisons his friends in a twisted bid to fulfill his political ambitions and dreadful lusts.

One of the more surprising things about “Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2” is that the story works rather well, and that it is, initially at least, a genuinely affecting tale of brotherhood. The early scenes of Ma bonding with the two bandits come across as quite heartfelt, and provide a nice echo of the films they imitate. Director Kin-Nam Cho (also responsible for the Category III classic “Chinese Erotic Ghost Story”) keeps the mood of the first half quite light without resorting to an abundance of the genre’s trademark lowbrow slapstick, and this gives the atrocities of the second half an impact often unfelt in similar Category III efforts. In this way, “Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2” does actually resemble a proper film, unlike so many of its brethren.

“Chinese Torture Chamber 2” does later venture into very dark territory, dealing with such themes as child abuse and barefaced betrayal, and the result of this is a very different prospect than the original, where the bloodletting had a cheerfully demented quality. In this film, the violence and sexual abuse, though at times still played for uncomfortable titillation, are genuinely unpleasant, and Cho throws in some fairly sickening scenes, even by the standards of the genre.

One sequence in particular, featuring a flashback to the assault of a child, intercut with the anal rape of a female cast member using a paint brush (complete with spurting blood), is sure to shock even the most jaded follower of Category III. This is just one of a whole catalogue of similar offenses, which firmly establish the film as one of the genre’s most distasteful. However, in Cho’s defense, as a result of the efforts made at establishing plot and character earlier in the film, and the fact that the proceedings are generally quite well directed, these scenes are far less gratuitous than in other films, though admittedly no less distasteful. Similarly, although the film is undoubtedly misogynistic, the male characters are subjected to equally frequent and barbaric humiliations and tortures, which is somewhat rare for the genre.

At the end of the day, no matter what is written about it, only fans of Category III cinema are likely to watch “Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2”, which is probably just as well, as it would undoubtedly prove a traumatic experience for the uninitiated viewer. The film is definitely above average for its type, and is recommended for connoisseurs of the form, though with a slight warning not to expect the rather jovial nature of the original, and to be prepared for some genuinely unpleasant scenes.

Kin-Nam Cho (director)
CAST: Mark Cheng …. Ma San Yee
Wai Lam …. Cheung Man Cheong
Yolinda Yam …. Lotus
Faan Yeung …. Wong Chung’s wife
Hung Yeung …. Wong Chung

Buy Chinese Torture Chamber 2 on DVD