Wide World of Horror: ‘Jue ming pai dui (Invitation Only’) – how to deliver your message with a giant hammer

Jue ming pai dui (Invitation Only)Invitation_Only_Poster
Screenplay by Sung In & Carolyn Lin
Directed by Kevin Ko
Taiwan, 2009

One of the calling cards of the horror genre is its ability to delve deep into societal issues. The horror genre can often go to places that other genres cannot because of the content found within a horror movie. Not all horror movies explore society, but there are plenty that do so in fine fashion. Jue ming pai dui wants to be one of the films that does explore society more deeply. This film wants to be one of those types of movies so bad that it runs rough shod over subtlety in its desire to deliver a profound message connected with present day society.

The rich and the poor, or upper and lower class if you will, being at odds is nothing new to the world. Travel to any country and a clear distinction between the haves and the have nots will be found at the quick step. Film has been exploring the theme of rich versus poor since the dawn of film as an artistic medium. Such a theme is a mainstay of the horror genre, and will most likely be a mainstay of the genre until the end of time. Jue ming pai dui takes on the rich versus poor theme and that’s about all it does. It’s not enough for a film to say the rich and the poor clash, any film dealing with that theme needs to explore the theme to leave any sort of mark on the film world. Not to mention that exploration of the theme will lead to a better film in every regard. Yet, that’s not the type of film Jue ming pai dui ever manages to be. There is a theme present in Jue ming pai dui, the rich and poor do clash. Amid all the clashing nothing else happens with the theme. The script from Sung In and Carolyn Lin never moves beyond saying “the rich and the poor have reasons to fight, don’t they?”

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The result of such a poorly explored theme is a film that is devoid of life. The pieces are in place, but the game masters are content with only going through the motions. Blood is shed, torture is dished out, but in the service of what exactly? Without a strong theme at its core Jue ming pai dui is an aimless conglomeration of violence for the sake of violence. There’s no reason to necessarily be against violence for the sake of violence. Well made violence can, and often does, result in an enjoyable film experience. However, Jue ming pai dui isn’t trying to produce violence for no other reason than the sake of violence. Kevin Ko’s film has deeper aspirations, it wants to be important. Said aspirations are never met though, and that leaves the film a very empty experience.

Taiwan has produced quite a few horror films over the years, and there must be films better than Jue ming pai dui in the bunch. Jue ming pai dui has a message, but it thinks the best way to deliver its message is to staple it to the end of a hammer and bludgeon that hammer into the head of the viewer. The hammer approach is rarely, if ever, effective, and Jue ming pai dui is no exception. Wanting to have a theme in your film is fine and dandy, but doing something with the theme is important. Jue ming pai dui allows its theme to sit on the screen, and when that’s all that’s being done with a theme the resultant film is decidedly hollow.

-Bill Thompson

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