Behind Dumplings' innocent-sounding title, evil lurks. A refreshing change from the usual lank-haired ghost stories of extreme Asian cinema, this Hong Kong horror trades on nausea rather than nerve-jangling. Cooked up by mysterious medicine woman Bai Ling, the titular delicacy takes years off desperate housewife Miriam Yeung thanks to a sinister special ingredient. It's a blackly comic comment on society's obsession with appearance; just remember to save the bucket after you've finished your popcorn...
Fruit Chan's movie is an expansion of his 37-minute contribution to 2002 omnibus Three Extremes. At times there's a sense that it should've stayed in its shorter form; the plot treads water in places, especially in the lead-up to the final sick-trigger surprise. On the other hand, you can never have too much of ace cinematographer Chris Doyle's (Hero, In The Mood For Love) lip-smacking work.
As well as looking scrumptious, Dumplings also serves up some deliciously icky sound effects, as ex-soap princess Qing (Yeung) scrunches down the rejuvenating recipe that becomes a foetal attraction. Yes, we did say foetal. Aunt Mei (Ling), it turns out, is a former abortionist; one gruesome scene plays like Vera Drake remade by Takashi Miike.
"AS MUCH SOCIAL SATIRE AS SHOCKER"
Needless to say, this is not a film that will suit all tastes. But at least the taboo-busting comes with a sense of humour. This is as much social satire as shocker, poking a hot skewer into the attitudes of a chauvinistic culture that equates female beauty with youth. If you can stomach some of the imagery, there's certainly food for thought.
In German/Mandarin/Cantonese with English subtitles.