Erotic Nightmare

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Cheap, sleazy, and totally unhinged, Erotic Nightmare (1999) could only have come from producer Wong Jing. This erotic black magic thriller is one of three films in Vinegar Syndrome’s gorgeous boxed set Made In Hong Kong Vol. 1. Erotic Nightmare, though not the most infamous or disturbing Cat. III film, is an excellent example of Wong Jing’s productions as they transitioned from the bigger budgets of the early nineties to the post-handover era.

There are a lot of interesting ideas suggested in Erotic Nightmare that are never fully explored or even realized. On the one hand Erotic Nightmare is simply Wong Jing’s take on Wishmaster (1997) while on the other hand the film could be seen today as an allegory for addiction to virtual worlds like Second Life or IMVU. Unfortunately it is enough for Wong Jing that Erotic Nightmare features numerous scenes of female nudity and a hefty dose of black magic action sequences.

The premise of the film is that a monk turned sorcerer named Fong (Berg Ng) sells a wealthy, sexually frustrated business man named Ip (Anthony Wong) some highly erotic dreams. However, the high school nymphet of Ip’s dreams is really the ghost Bobo (Kei Heung) who exacts a high price for pleasure. Soon Ip has lost everything to Fong in what the police describe as a murder/suicide. Ip’s brother Man (Eric Wan) returns to Hong Kong when he learns of his brother’s misfortune and uses his own magic to battle the evil wizard.

At the heart of Erotic Nightmare is the basic concept that subconscious desires or fantasies affect the waking life. And while Erotic Nightmare takes this concept to the extreme, it does illustrate this notion in a compelling way as it cuts back and forth between shots of Wong and Heung having intercourse and Wong murdering his family with a box cutter. All in all Steve Cheng’s direction maintains an adequate amount of tension throughout the film via this rather simplistic method.

On a technical level the primary failing of Erotic Nightmare is that it lacks a strong visual style. There is only a subtle difference between how those images of dreams and of reality are executed (with the climactic battle as an exception). Yet, if these images are too appear similar, no motivation for that stratagem is ever suggested in the film.

Of course, Wong Jing being Wong Jing, Erotic Nightmare is concerned with offering the viewer titillating spectacles first and foremost. The allure of Kei Heung’s numerous nude scenes will either compensate for the lack of conceptual sophistication in the film or they won’t. While there are often redeeming facets to Wong Jing’s productions, like Erotic Nightmare, the content of the films themselves is so divisive that it becomes difficult to recommend his films to those who aren’t already steeped in the traditions of Cat. III pictures. I suppose it’s safest to say that only the most adventurous cinephiles need apply.