Simon Paul Wilson
Hello, and welcome back!
Before I begin, I’m going to teach you some Cantonese.
Are you ready?
Congrats! You can now go to Hong Kong and ask for dumplings. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go to HK, do yourself a favour and try some fried dumplings. I’m not kidding when I say they are absolutely fantastic. However, if a trip to Hong Kong is not possible, visit your nearest Chinatown and find a little Cantonese restaurant. I have no doubt you’ll be able to find some there. I know I have!
Dumpling soup is also good, but not the kind I’m going to be talking about today…
I’d like to tell you about a conversation I heard in the foyer of my local cinema a couple of years ago. As I was contemplating whether to go for salted popcorn or some nachos, I heard two employees of said movie theatre discussing their favourite films. It was obvious they were trying to outdo each other with their eclectic tastes, and judging by how loud they were talking, they wanted all the customers within earshot to marvel at their knowledge.
One of them started to sing the praises of Mother. The other staff member agreed that the film was one hell of a head trip, but not as screwed up as the Dumplings.
He was not wrong, Dumplings is a twisted and dark film. So much so, it’s almost enough to put you off eating dumplings for life.
The first version of Dumplings I saw was the first segment of the horror anthology, Three…Extremes. I heartily recommend this anthology, as the other two segments are also bloody brilliant, especially Cut. Anyway, not long after watching the DVD, I learned there was also a full-length theatrical film of Dumplings. Of course, I had to get it. As soon as it was released, I purchased a copy to add to my collection of Asian horrors.
Dumplings is a 2004 Hong Kong horror film, directed by Fruit Chan. It stars Miriam Yeung as Mrs Li, Tony Leung Ka-fai as Mr Li, and Bai Ling as Aunt Mei. Some of you may know Bai Long from her role as Myca in The Crow.
Mrs Li is a former actress who is not having the best of times. Not only is she losing her looks, but her husband is having an affair with his masseuse.
To try and help get her beauty back, she goes to see Aunt Mei, a local chef who cooks ‘special’ dumplings that can rejuvenate those who eat them.
While Mrs Li is all too happy to eat the bowl of dumplings Aunt Mei cooks for her, you know something is wrong and things aren’t going to go well. Needless to say, we don’t have to wait long to find out exactly what the secret ingredient is.
Not only is Mrs Li indulging in cannibalism, but the flesh she is eating is also acquired from an abortion clinic in nearby Shenzhen, where Mei used to work.
As usual, I’m going to stay away from spoilers, in case you haven’t seen the film and want to give it a shot. I definitely feel this is one of the best Asian horror movies going, and it stands the test of time well. Its disturbing content still packs a powerful kick to the gut. Watching Mrs Li throw her moral compass out of the window for the sale of vanity is pretty grim, and bloody horrifying, to be honest. This film takes the concept of ‘the things we would do to reclaim our youth’ and runs with it down a very, very dark path. While Dumplings may not be a scary gorefest, it certainly is a film you will remember.
Not long after I had watched the full-length version of this movie, I was gifted a copy of the absolute classic that is Oldboy. Just like Dumplings, Oldboy was a film that shocked me with its dark subject matter. I remember thinking that I’d found two films that Hollywood couldn’t butcher. There was no way on Earth that either of these films could be remade for the Western market.
I can’t talk about the remake of Oldboy, as it may cause me to vomit my heart up in anger. However, I do feel confident a remake of Dumplings would never happen.
Or should I be ready for the film, Burgers?
As usual, thanks for reading! See you next time for a trip to Thailand and a creepy little film called Shutter.
Simon Paul Wilson
Simon Paul Wilson is a U.K. based writer of horror and science fiction.
He is currently writing a cyberpunk horror trilogy, the first of which is GhostCityGirl and was published by Not A Pipe publishing in 2020.
Click this link for more info: Ghost City Girl
There now follows a list of writers who have influenced his reading tastes and writing style:
James Herbert. Stephen King, Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, China Mieville, Haruki Murakami, Carlton Mellick III, Brian Keene, and Adam Nevill.
Simon lives somewhere in the middle of England with his wonderful family. He likes to listen to post-rock and progressive rock at loud volumes. He also plays a mean air bass.
Follow him on Twitter: @spwzen