Carrie Ng in Red NightsRed Nights marks two significant events: a debut and an overdue return. The film is directors Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud’s first feature, having built their careers as screenwriters, most notably for Johnnie To’s thriller Running Out of Time. The long awaited return is that of Hong Kong starlet Carrie Ng, who is famous for her sexy and deadly presence in such films as Naked Killer and Sex and Zen. These occasions blend as the perfect ingredients for an erotic thriller evocative of Dario Argento’s bloody escapades into sex and death.

A box containing a white jade seal rumoured to have belonged to China’s first Emperor falls into the hands of Catherine (Frédérique Bel), a mistress who takes the valuable artifact to Hong Kong in the hopes of selling it. In Hong Kong, Carrie (Ng), a wealthy patron of the arts, mounts a production of the opera The Jade Emperor – the tale of the first Emperor’s executioner, who used a deadly poison to paralyze his victims while simultaneously enhancing their sensations. Carrie is single-mindedly obsessed with finding this ancient poison. When it becomes apparent that the white jade seal contains a vial of the elixir, Catherine finds herself caught in Carrie’s sadistic web, where bliss and pain are blurred into a twisted, forbidden ecstasy.

The kill sequences are some of the most unique, sexualized and sadistic ever put on screen. As the jade-clawed Dragon Lady, Ng shows she is equal parts seductress and psycho-sexual killer. She lures and traps her victims in a variety of inescapable “pleasure” devices, in which who is enjoying depends entirely on Carrie’s wishes. The first apparatus is difficult to understand as it resembles a latex vacuum seal, but it ends up being a very effective snare. Later on, the harness contraption is not as unusual a piece of equipment, but its purpose tends to be less gruesome. The act of freeing a butterfly for luck is given a new, unforgettable context in this scene. In addition, a pause for the perfect martini is an interesting but chilling one.

The music in the film is quite notable. The score is provided by French composers Seppuku Paradigm, who are also responsible for the music in Martyrs and Eden Log. It absolutely complements the graceful murder scenes in the film. In addition, the lyrical music is very captivating, particularly the Elysian Fields track “Climbing My Dark Hair.” The opera, which mirrors Carrie’s own fetish and obsession, is an original piece written by Carbon and Courtiaud, who also wrote the screenplay.

Combining the styles of Italian giallo and espionage thrillers, Red Nights is an intriguing journey into the exotic Far East not yet seen.

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