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The Deathday Party

Anita Yuen enjoys her Deathday Party.
Chinese: 死亡派對
Year: 2014  
Director: Eddie Tse  
Writer: Eddie Tse
Action: Gao Xiang

Anita Yuen Wing-Yee, Archie Kao, Xiong Naijin, Zhang Zimu, Tong Xi, Wu Zhensu, Li Yuan, Johnny Hsu, Wu Chao, Yang Zhidi

The Skinny: Mainland horror thriller that attempts to work with the usual content restrictions and fails utterly because it essentially lies to the audience for its entire running time. Like most China thrillers, Deathday Party compels the audience to reach the end to see what the hell is going on. Whether the experience is worthwhile is another issue entirely.
by Kozo:

The China horror genre is going strong – at least, China filmmakers are still making thrillers and dressing them up to look like they’re horror films. The Deathday Party performs that bait-and-switch with its poster imagery and a violent opening set piece that’s ripe for terror. Former Hong Kong Cinema queen Anita Yuen stars as Helen, a yoga instructor and single mother who’s kidnapped along with her daughter Cici (Zhang Zimu) and transported to an underground cavern to play a murderous “game” while wearing cult-like red robes. Helen and Cici join eight other red-robed people in the cavern, where they’re occasionally gassed by “toxic fog” that will sedate them. During their slumber, a killer in their midst will use a gun to kill one person. Rinse and repeat, until everyone is dead but the killer. Thus, Helen must identify the killer before he/she offs them all during their toxic fog naps. Spoiler: The killer is not her daughter.

While a nifty enough survival game, this “Deathday Party” is illogical and not enough to sustain a whole film. Good thing it doesn’t have to; the game is actually shown in flashback with the present time covering Helen’s interrogation by the cops, led by Jenny (Xiong Naijin), a suspiciously hostile police psychologist who was oddly among the people participating in the “Deathday Party”. Also running around the cavern was another cop (Archie Kao from the American TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), and his role also extends beyond red-robed murder games. All the people in the cavern were actually related to Helen in real life, but she can’t remember how, and her lost memories are key to the entire mystery. So, besides being a “murder game” movie, The Deathday Party is one of those mind-bending psychological thrillers where nothing is what it seems for medical or technological reasons. Director-writer Eddie Tse is apparently not above threatening the audience with the “it was all a dream” excuse.

There’s a decent B-movie mystery in Deathday Party, and the film does wring some suspense from Helen’s hidden memory. However, the twists are not novel and the whole affair is dragged down by unremarkable direction, poor production values and uneven acting. Anita Yuen’s previous screen appeal had a lot to do with the characters she played, and the addled Helen is not really in her wheelhouse. The worst thing about Deathday Party is its blatantly dishonest storytelling. Eddie Tse spends the majority of the movie falsely showing something to the audience while his characters see the “reality” of the situation. This creates a tension that should not exist, because there’s simply no justification for the audience seeing something different than the characters – except to screw with us, that is. Maybe this storytelling technique – we’ll call it “lying” – is actually accepted in some circles, but I’m going to call shenanigans. Had Deathday Party been all a dream, it might actually have been better. (Kozo, 3/2015)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 PAL
Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co Ltd
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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