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Film / Human Lanterns

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A 1982 Hong Kong martial arts-horror film produced by Shaw Brothers, directed by Chung Sun, notably his second foray into martial arts-horror. A craftsman pits two martial arts masters against each other while creating special lanterns from a disturbing source. It's in the title.

The movie stars Tony Liu, Chen Kuan-tai, Lo Lieh, Ni Tien, Linda Chu, Hsiu Chun Lin, and Mego Lo.

One of the most talked-about, borderline controversial martial arts movie made by the Shaws back in those days, it is now considered a Cult Classic.


Tropes for the film:

  • Combat Hand Fan: Master Tan Fun and all his acolytes are experts in using fans as their weapons. Master Tan himself in particular has his own collection of different color fans, which he alternates between during his fights.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Chao intends to make lanterns out of human hide. Just like what the title implies!
  • Expy: Chao is practically a Ming Dynasty Leatherface.
  • Fallen Hero: Chao used to be a righteous warrior, but was unable to accept his failure and subsequently became a dangerous serial killer.
  • Fan Disservice: Plenty of naked flesh from nude women abound in this film... from the corpses of Chao's victims as he flays them. And it's extremely graphic.
  • Flaying Alive: The title comes from Chao's penchant for abducting women and skinning them whilst unconscious, to make lanterns out of their skin.
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  • Furo Scene: For a rich heiress, moments before she was abducted in the middle of her bath by Chao who had his eyes on her.
  • Genre Mashup: Part wuxia martial arts, part mystery-thriller, part exploitative gore-fest.
  • Genuine Human Hide: The film revolves around Chao, a disgraced ex-martial artist, who becomes a serial killer that delights in abducting young women, killing them, and using their skin to make lanterns which he considers his "masterpieces".
  • Good vs Good: Early on in their first meeting, there is a brief fight between Lung the heroic warrior and Master Tan, who's investigating his sister's dissapearance, before they realize they're on the same side.
  • Gorn: All over the damn place, especially after Chao had killed young women and is in the middle of flaying their corpses. The gore in this film is really graphic.
  • He Knows Too Much: When an elderly neighbour of Chao tried snooping around and enquires what on earth is Chao up to late at night, Chao decides to show the old man around his workshop. The old man then enquires what are the materials used for making these amazing lanterns. Chao honestly tells him the truth, that they're made of human skin... before choking and drowning the old man in a vat of blood.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Gallons of it. Even when Chao is dissecting dead victims.
  • In a Single Bound: Befitting the movie's nature as a wuxia. Chao notably uses this skill to abduct women after knocking them unconscious.
  • It's Personal: Master Tan's vendetta against Chao becomes this when he finds out his sister is one of Chao's many victims, whom he killed, stripped, and flayed to make them into lanterns.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Chao wears a mask when going on his killing sprees. One made from a human skull.
  • Man on Fire: Chao, the main villain, after being cornered, decides to end it right there by setting himself on fire.
  • Red Shirt: The Imperial police sent to assist Lung and Master Tan to arrest Chao in the finale, many who ends up being killed by Chao's blade.
  • Serious Business: For Chao, the Big Bad? Making perfect lanterns. The most ideal material being the skin of virgin women.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Chao, a fallen martial artist turned Serial Killer, often goes on a killing spree while wearing a mask made from a human skull.
  • Sword Fight: Most of the action scenes are sword-battles, especially the final duel between Chao and Lung.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Used to depict the backstory of Chao's Start of Darkness, unable to accept he's no longer number 1 in the martial arts world.
  • Wuxia: One of the gorier, more disturbing examples.


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