Posted by Peter Hall - August 24th 2009 @ 4:30 pm

Directed by Kevin Ko, 2009
Written by Sung In, Carolyn Lin

Taiwanese horror doesn’t have much brand identity.  In a way that makes it one of the more interesting Asian nations getting in on the International horror scene.  Korea, Japan and (most recently) Thailand all have emerged with their own symbolic staples both in front of and behind the camera, but Taiwan’s contributions don’t seem to have any unique cultural signifiers to them.  Sure, that’s just dumb Yankee outside talker, I’m sure there’s plenty for the Taiwanese to call their own that I’ll never be aware, but this filtered reflection of other nation’s horror is what interests me more than anything.

Take, for example, INVITATION ONLY, the latest ‘big’ horror movie to come out of Taiwan.  There are no pale women with long-black hair hiding in the shadows, no crazy ghosts waiting in the wings and no unbreakable family bonds.  INVITATION ONLY is about five strangers who are lured to a warehouse under the assumption they’re going to a VIP only party.  It’s a party alright, but our five are only there to be inevitably tortured for the amusement of rich people.  That’s right, it’s a HOSTEL rip off – there’s even a scene in which a cart full of body parts is used in an escape attempt – but director Kevin Ko is good at pulling off the heist.

Unlike the CAPTIVITYs of the world, INVITATION ONLY doesn’t settling for taping the Eli Roth brand of violence.  There’s a story to tell here in which the otherwise pointless torture of a human being makes sense.  I’m not saying it’s new or even a unique twist on an old formula, but it’s the difference between writing a script and loosely stringing together disturbing scenes.

Those who want motive and villains to blame should find at least a minimum amount of satisfaction.  Sung In and Carolyn Lin’s script provides logical behavior for both villain and victim, which is not always a guarantee with single-agenda filmmaking.  And those who want little more than to see men and women pushed to the brink are going to find even more satisfaction than the first group, perhaps most notably in a standout sequence involving open wounds, a tub of rock salt and a staple gun.

Taken as a whole, INVITATION ONLY is a moderately refreshing (think cold water on your face during a transatlantic flight, not hour long massage) warehouse of horrors that would pass general muster were it an English language film.  Is it going to win any awards or find itself on any important lists?  No, not really.  INVITATION ONLY will likely sink away into obscurity, as is so often the case with its regional brethren since the Tartan Asian Extreme DVD label went tits up in 2008, but an honorable mention is deserved for effort in localizing typically American horror tropes (I don’t even remember the last Asian horror movie I saw sporting a gratuitous sex scene that was not directed by Chan-wook Park.)

Though I must admit I’m still clueless as to how or why half a face and arm fell out of a woman’s purse in the beginning (as seen in the poster).  But, hey, the fact that that doesn’t bother me’s gotta be in INVITATION ONLY’s favor.  Or it’s a testament to just how barely above average it is.  Potato, potahtoe.

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  1. August 25th, 2009 | 12:35 pm | #1

    “The latest ‘big’ horror movie to come out of Taiwan,” is like saying “the latest ‘small’ poop to come out of my butt.” They don’t exist.

  2. August 25th, 2009 | 1:58 pm | #2

    They’ve got some decent sized movies, at least in line with Korea and Japan. I was actually about to mention SILK as their biggest before INVITATION ONLY when I saw a headline at Bloody-Disgusting that SILK is in line for a remake.

    So take that, xenophobe!

  3. adam charles
    August 25th, 2009 | 2:09 pm | #3

    “SILK is in line for a remake” is like saying “Chinese food makes Adam shit a lot.” – they’re obvious inevitabilities.

    How else can we work in big steamers in this comment section?

  4. August 26th, 2009 | 8:07 am | #4

    Adam smells like diarrhea.

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