March 17, 2019

Beasts of Prey: The Return of Insect Woman

Kim Ki-young's late-career melodrama Beasts of Prey is also known as Carnivore and Carnivorous Animals in English-speaking countries but it might just as easily have been called Insect Woman 2 or The Return of Insect Woman or Child of the Insect Woman so indebted is it to the 1972 film that would set the tone for most of Kim's kooky output for the next decade or so. Repeating plot points include a young woman forced into prostitution by economics who then ends up wreaking havoc on the family of the patriarch who stole her virginity; an insatiably hungry baby that miraculously appears shortly after that middle-aged man is doped into a vasectomy; a bratty, self-important son who swears off vegetables and meat for a diet consisting entirely of honey; an out-of-control rat infestation problem in the basement of the family's country estate; a contractual agreement that divides daddy's time between two homes where he spends twelve hours a day.

Some changes work better — the sex scene on the glass table covered with spilled candies; the concubine's insistence that her lover wear a diaper and bib to turn back the clock in the bedroom. Most, however, do not. The look of Beasts of Prey is very 1980s prime time TV soap opera; the acting recalls the comic stridency of early John Waters movies. I also missed the "infant versus rat" scenario, the shadowy figure in the refrigerator, and the demented snarls of the female protagonist. A narrative thread involving gigolos who target middle-aged women also got dropped too quickly for my taste while the barmaid with the mullet should've had more screen time for her hairdo alone.