Diary of a Serial Killer | Varied Celluloid

Diary of a Serial Killer

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 5 - 2011

Diary of a Serial Killer (1995)
Director: Otto Chan
Writers: Otto Chan (?)
Starring: Chan Kwok-bong, Yeung Yuk-Mui and Cheung Yui-Ling



The Plot: Bill (Chan Kwok-bong) is your everyday sort of fellow. He has a wife, child and enjoys his own private time. Unfortunately for all of his neighbors, his private time revolves mostly around the killing of prostitutes. Within Bill’s deep past, he was humiliated by female officers within a prison sentence that he served as a young man. Now Bill looks to strike out and take his revenge on any member of the opposite sex that he finds to be immoral. Bill figures, as any good Buddhist would, the best way for a low-standing individual to attain a quality reincarnation would be for their lives to be taken in the most brutal and horrid fashion possible. So, Bill searches the streets at night looking for his next victim. His world is turned upside down, however, when his wife’s niece comes to live with his family. The young girl becomes Bill’s latest fascination and he will do anything to be with her… Anything!

The Review
If you ever wanted to look up the textbook definition of “cinematic schizophrenia”, you need look no further than Otto Chan’s Diary of a Serial Killer. The very strange atmosphere that seems to surround the movie may be both its greatest asset, and its worst pitfall. This all depends on the viewer and their preference, of course. One thing is guaranteed though, this is a film that stretches itself all over the map. From displaying characters who are becoming emotional train-wrecks in one scene, to clown-like tomfoolery within the next, this is a movie that will test your willpower and cause you to question yourself in some very key ways. Ultimately this is a character piece that revolves around a incredibly sick individual, but you may be surprised to find a lack of contempt from the filmmakers as they display this man and all of his despicable behavior. No punches are pulled, and surprisingly few judgement calls are made. Even when there probably should have been a few.

Diary of a Serial Killer is essentially something I ran into on a whim. It features no big names, nor any that I recognized before going into the film. The director Otto Chan has a few director credits to his name, but most have been from other even more obscure Category III titles. When picking the film out, all I had was its title to go by and the fact that it was rated CAT III. My first impression of the film was based around this title alone. I picked it figuring that I would get another slightly disturbing Hong Kong thriller based upon a real life serial killer, and it turns out I was right. Apparently there is a degree of truth to this story and there was a legitimate serial killer in 1992 who stalked Wong Po village in Guanzhao, China. The details are very hazy, but there is at least a degree of truth to this story. However, I would bet my left leg and all of the loose change in my pocket that Otto Chan invented the majority of the “facts” involved in this story. From the insane shifts in emotional reactions to the Deus ex machina plot twists that come about from out of nowhere, this is a film that tends to steer far away from reality.

Generally speaking, few audience members come into these CAT III serial killer movies expecting hard boiled thrillers. We get into these flicks because we want to see some very weird and very lurid material, and in that regard Diary of a Serial Killer does not disappoint. This movie is sleazy, there is no doubt about that. Sleazy written in all capital letters on the side of a dumpster filled with maggots and used condoms. The character of Bill is sexually compulsive and comes across as a genuinely nasty man. Played to perfection by an over-the-top Chan Kwok-bong, Bill is ultimately played as our “hero”, but the man is genuinely horrid in almost all regards. In retrospect when I even attempt to think about the character all I think of his him in a wife-beater spitting out the side of his beat-up truck. That is the mental image given to me by this film, but I continually found it hilarious how the movie would constantly put his character in dangerous situations, where it seems he might be caught by the police, and then play up the suspense. They use this suspense as if we are supposed to care for this man, and hope that for some reason he won’t be caught, but he is far from a sympathetic man. While watching, I found myself taken back by the film and I asked myself “Am I supposed to be rooting for this psychopath?” The answer to that question is ambiguous, because director Otto Chan ultimately doesn’t take sides, and in that regard he at least leaves some intriguing question marks within his film.

Going back to my most beloved and hated aspect of the film, the movie bounces around heavily in its tone. There are light jokes, such as Bill’s wife falling asleep during intercourse after working a long day, which sounds rather sleazy but is played in a very broad manner of comedy. Then we are greeted with several slightly creepy moments throughout, such as the masturbation scene. That scene is a perfect example of the strange tones that this movie reaches for. In this sequence we watch Bill pleasure himself to an S&M video, which is pretty darn creepy, but then it gets slightly more strange as his wife steps in to “help him out” with some cooking oil. She does this before going to check on their baby… who sleeps in the same room. Then, in a diametrically opposed atmospheric reaction, we see her take the dripping oil off of her hand and pour it back in the bottle while the narrator explains how economical she is. Obscene and disturbing, but then attempting humor, the movie can’t seem to keep a steady hand. Even during the first killing the movie moves from straight horror into extremely broad humor. I won’t give away much, but the scene attempts to emulate the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but turns into an outright spoof. A little comedy is expected in any Hong Kong title, but the broad levels of humor present here doesn’t really seem fitting for a movie about a man who apparently killed 14 people.

I suppose you don’t come to a Hong Kong exploitation film expecting to watch a respectful piece of history though, do you? In that regard, Diary of a Serial Killer is gloriously over the top. Bill is a maniac, but despite how depraved he may be Chan Kwok-bong does play him with a great amount of charisma. The brutality of his violence throughout may turn audiences away, but his naive insanity might just draw them in. Surely audiences can look past his shoving a firecracker into a woman’s vagina? Or the sequence where he cuts off a woman’s breasts so that he can sew them onto a mannequin? Okay, maybe not, but there’s still something worth watching about this character.


The Conclusion
How utterly bizarre a title this film turned out to be. In many ways, I don’t really know what to make of it. However, the lover of bizarre cinema within me must recommend it. Few films are quite as erratic and completely bonkers as this one movie attempts to be, so I would say that makes it worth tracking down. I give it a solid three out of five.




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