Brother of Darkness (1994)
Director: Billy Tang
Writers: Kong Heung Sang
Starring: Hugo Ng, Lily Chung, William Ho, Money Lo, and Anthony Wong

The Plot: Our film begins with Wong Kuen To (Hugo Ng), a mild mannered young man who enjoys a little recreational Taekwondo, being arrested for the apparent killing of his own brother. We then watch as this young man goes to court for the homicide, and then the court proceedings give us the real story of what happened to this man and what would cause him to do this horrible thing. As it turns out, Wong Kuen To was actually an adopted child. After their first born boy turned out to be such a tremendous burden, Wong Kuen To’s parents decided to try again in their elderly years. Unfortunately, the eldest son never learned to leave the nest. During the few moments where he is not in some segment of the correctional system, this older brother beats, harasses, robs, and denigrates both his parents as well as Wong Kuen To. As Kuen To tries to deal with the sexual abnormality that his older brother has left him with with (he has a condition called hypgonadism, developed after a concentrated knee to his testicles as a young boy), he must also learn how to make a relationship work with his beautiful girlfriend Jenny. However, this older brother from hell will hardly sit back and allow anyone in his family to have any sort of peace.

The Review
From the delightfully disturbed mind of “Bloody” Billy Tang we are given yet another insane bit of CAT III exploitation. Previously, the director made some of the true classics within the true crime subgenre in the CAT III industry. This was a particular style of film that proved to be quite popular during the early nineties and essentially told about real life killers and sociopaths. While Brother of Darkness doesn’t follow a deranged lunatic, as one might expect, it does once again deal with a very procedural story of death and tragedy. Similar to the Japanese film Blood and Bone, which is a VERY different sort of movie, Brother of Darkness looks to grind the audience’s nerves by showing them a dysfunctional family that is completely terrorized by one of its own. Apparently a film by the same producer who worked on the popular Hong Kong titles Daughter of Darkness and Daughter of Darkness 2, films that featured many members of the same cast, I understand that this film is not a sequel of any sort. Instead, this is a product entirely of its own creation, and apparently a sadistic piece of original filmmaking. Throughout Brother of Darkness, we see a brother who completely tortures his family in the most inhumane way possible. At every turn, he is pressing someone’s buttons or doing something completely horrible. Yet, I don’t feel that the movie is entirely sensationalist in tone, which makes it something rather unique for this genre.

The movie is shot in a very confrontational manner. The performances are over-the-top at times, including the insane performance of our lead character’s insane brother. Released from prison, the character shows up like a whirlwind and immediately introduces chaos. However, the way he is presented on camera is a key part in what makes this man stand out as larger-than-life while he is onscreen. There are numerous zooms on his face, particularly during the early half of the movie, that are done with a bubble-like lens, which makes him almost seem alien. The lighting is also equally wild and it seems as if it is almost always unnatural. The brother character, played by William Ho, is obviously a movie-monster, but done in a real world fashion. There are actually scenes where he laughs maniacally whilst committing evil deed, and I can see how his cartoonish behavior could potentially draw viewers out of the experience, but due to the strong performances from the rest of the cast, the monster becomes believable. Their tears and torment cover up the zipper that adorns this painfully obvious horror movie monster. For my buck, the reality of the situation becomes very easy to believe. Undoubtedly, the cast give this story more credence than Western audiences may at first believe. With tears being shed on multiple occasions, and a strong supporting cast (with the lovable Anthony Wong), this acting is far better than it probably has to be.

There’s an underlying current in the movie that looks to examine the effects of psychological abuse, using our leading man as an example. Despite being a young man who is full of bravado, our leading man is shown as being very reluctant to engage in a physical confrontation with his insane older brother. Despite having trained in taekwondo for the sole purpose of protecting himself, he refuses to step up when necessary. It ultimately takes being pushed to the point of seeing someone he loves being bullied before he actually decides to step up. While watching the film, the audience might first believe that this mental abuse is also the reason why our hero refuses to lose his virginity to his beautiful girlfriend. Although she presses him for sex, he continually backs out of it. As it turns out, the physical abuse, the aforementioned knee to the groin from the plot synopsis, has given him a disorder known as hypogonadism, which is a legitimate disorder that stops the use of sexual organs in males and females. In every way, our character has been emasculated, and as we know and wait for him to have some form of revenge, the audience can only really cry alongside him for most of the film’s duration.

Although this is a Hong Kong true crime story, rated under the Category III banner, and directed by Billy Tang, there is surprisingly little violence throughout Brother of Darkness. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. When the violence is needed, it is there. However, the film instead focuses on amplifying the tension revolving around this family. While the eldest brother is pretty over-the-top, his grating behavior is nearly enough to incite audience into a rioting panic. That is where the movie earns its stripes, and although audiences can anticipate the movie beat-by-beat, they won’t be able to imagine the heights at which the movie delivers upon its genre tropes. From the previously mentioned “wild performance” to the levels of depravity that are reached while seeing this family is put through mayhem, the film remains relatively difficult to pin down.

The Conclusion
Although Brother of Darkness may not be the single title that jumps out to viewers when they think of CAT III crime movies, it does stand out as one of Billy Tang’s best dramatic works within the genre. It may lack in violence, but it tells a very dark story that can easily manipulate its audience. While it may have a negative connotation, this sort of manipulation is always appreciated. I give it a four out of five, certainly a title worth searching out!