Here in the United States, Shaw Bros. is most famous for such martial arts epics as One-Armed Swordsman, Come Drink with Me, and Five Deadly Venoms. Recently, however, Metrograph has been making an effort to introduce American audiences to some of the studio’s less celebrated work, hosting a retrospective of its horror-themed titles last Halloween. Now, the venue is shining a spotlight on the female directors that rose to prominence during the company’s waning years. The selected films cover a wide range of genres, but since I can’t resist the siren call of a good ghost story, I ended up seeing The Siamese Twins.
The plot revolves around a young college student’s return to Hong Kong after spending the majority of her life abroad; unfortunately, her mother seems displeased with her unannounced visit. Gradually, the poor girl discovers that her family is being tormented by the vengeful spirit of her formerly-conjoined twin sister, who died when they were surgically separated at birth. Can she rescue her parents from their lingering feelings of guilt, resentment, and self-loathing at having inadvertently condemned their infant daughter to an unjust demise? Or will her sibling’s bloodlust consume them all?
Despite its occasionally campy tone, the movie features several genuinely scary moments—few of which are even overtly supernatural! The various men surrounding our heroine tend to treat her rather abysmally: her rich “suitor” (borderline stalker) clearly views her as another piece of property, like his fancy Rolls-Royce or his father’s yacht, while her doctors are only interested in studying her deteriorating mental condition, often at the expense of her psychological wellbeing. Her mother’s fears regarding the haunting, meanwhile, are constantly dismissed as mere delusions—the product of a grief-shattered mind. The male characters are almost universally depicted as deceitful and untrustworthy; ultimately, nearly every single one of them is easily seduced and possessed by the bewitching specter, reduced to murderous extensions of her malevolent will.
Sadly, The Siamese Twins never really lives up to these fleeting glimpses of potential. Although it draws inspiration from some of the best (the opening disembodied P.O.V. shot, for example, is reminiscent of The Evil Dead, and the music tries very hard to evoke Goblin’s Suspiria soundtrack), it fails to develop its own voice and identity—a shame, considering the tantalizing promises made by its pulpy, exploitative premise.