The U.S. box office has borne witness to a number of head to head battles between films about giant meteors, Robin Hood, and even crime solving dogs. However, Hollywood has never seen a contest like that of the 2001 Hong Kong clash between “Human Pork Chop” and “There is a Secret in my Soup”. The two films were made and released at the same time, both were inspired by a horrific local murder case, and both were uncannily similar, sharing not only the same basic plot, but also the same events, scenes and structure. Given that both are pretty execrable films, brimming with sleaze and sadism, the question here is not so much which is better, but rather which of the two you should watch if forced to decide at gunpoint.
The answer is probably “Human Pork Chop”, though this is a victory by default as much as anything else, through the simple fact that “There is a Secret in my Soup” has absolutely no redeeming values whatsoever, rather as a Category III film or as a piece of exploitation cinema in general.
A quick rehash of the plot: the police raid an apartment in Kowloon and make the gruesome discovery of a human skull inside a ‘Hello Kitty’ soft toy. They round up the suspects and begin the interrogation, gradually learning the horrible truth. The skull belongs to Maggie (Cherry Chan), a local woman forced into prostitution at a brothel after being thrown out by her cruel husband. Maggie made the fatal error of crossing the gang that runs the brothel, including Rocky (Hugo Ng, from the Category III classic, “Daughter of Darkness”), his wife Pat (Angela Tong, “Bio-Zombie”), and Joe (Gabriel Harrison, “Model from Hell”). It transpires that in desperation, Maggie stole some money from Rocky, and being unable to pay it back, was imprisoned, tortured, and killed, before tragically ending up in the soup.
The only thing to be said in favour of “Human Pork Chop” was that it was genuinely horrific, and though nihilistic and exploitative, at least it had the sense not to glorify any of the events. Also, its production values were low, and the whole sordid affair had a grimy sense of realism. “There’s a Secret in my Soup” takes another route, throwing in a few completely pointless soft-core sex scenes, one of which is truly bizarre as it takes place in an alleyway and involves extended use of a vacuum cleaner. These scenes are totally at odds with the film’s sadism and torture, and are both pointless and offensive, making the overall tone wildly uneven.
A similar problem is caused by the odd censoring of the ‘Hello Kitty’ doll whenever it is onscreen, and the optical fogging used is an amusing contrast with the graphic torture being shown at the same time. The rest of the film is not much better, and director Yeung Chi Gin (who was responsible for the huge Category III hit “Pretty Woman”) does little to dress up the proceedings. Gin falls into the usual trap of mistaking neon lights for atmosphere and clearly feels that character development is an unnecessary aspect of filmmaking.
There are some flashbacks that attempt to generate some viewer sympathy for Maggie, though these are so badly done as to be vaguely insulting. Although the film is apparently more faithful to the real case than “Human Pork Chop”, presumably through its including details such as the aforementioned doll, it is certainly far duller, and events really drag, leaving the viewer begging for the dinner bell. There is a fair amount of nastiness on display, but Category III fans are likely to be left wanting, as the clumsy handling of any potentially gruesome scenes leave them bereft of any impact they may have had in the hands of a more skilled director. Similarly, although the production values are unusually high, this merely leaves the film looking like some kind of bad-trip TV film more than anything else.
Overall, the battle of the two nearly identical cannibal murder films is won by “Human Pork Chop”. That said, “There is a Secret in my Soup” is truly the dreg of the Category III genre. It’s a poorly made and boring mess that aims for both titillation and horror, but fails badly on both counts. Not even ardent fans of exploitation cinema should bother.
Yeung Chi Gin (director) / Yeung Chi Gin, Siu Jat Ming (screenplay)
CAST: Chiu Chiu Chan …. Maggie Chan
Angela Tong Ying-Ying …. Pat