The Four Tricks of the Hooker: Teenage Hooker Became
Killing Machine in Daehakno (2000)
Firstly, for the sheer, streetwise brilliance of its concept: to
cross the rape-revenge cycle (from Lipstick  to Baise-moi ) with RoboCop (1987). Only the little known Eve of Destruction  came
close to this master stroke: a schoolgirl hooker (Lee So-woon, always in
uniform, naturally) meets her death at the hands of an evil teacher (Kim
Dae-tong), is chopped up by a gang and put back together by a lurking
scientist, and then returns as an angel of vengeance. It’s not subtle – its
crowning moment is a giant mechanical gun-phallus shoved in the mouth of the
cowering teacher – but it has no desire to be.
Secondly, for its guttersnipe inventiveness. Made with
virtually no money or resources, everything (from costumes and
techno-assemblages to wide angle lenses and steadicam-type contraptions) was
patched together in a merry bricolage by Korean director Nam Ki-woong and his
small team. Hilariously, in a barely sixty minute film, the credits run through
very slowly backwards at the start – and then forwards at the end. In between,
a musical collage blares everything from Gypsy Kings
to Massive Attack – always at war with the image.
Thirdly, for the truly underground tradition it revives. Teenage Hooker does not really resemble
contemporary camp-schlock by John Waters or Gregg Araki. It is closer to the
avant-garde funk of Red Grooms, the
manic pastiche of George Kuchar, or the punk shock tactics of Jon Moritsugu.
Part of this aesthetic is its rough, hit-and-miss texture: some effects are as
dexterously staged as in a Sam Raimi Evil Dead movie (the wonderful whip-movements away the girl’s gun,
along her arm, into her face), others fall flat as a pancake. But the static,
draggy moments are as important as the wham-bang ones – and both come together
in a splendidly demented dance scene between hooker and teacher.
And fourthly, for its redemption of digital video. Nam’s stylisation is brutal but absolutely consistent: faces are grotesque masks, light is souped up to blinding levels, the contours of every space are distorted, primary colours reach maximum, lurid intensity. The end result is strangely lyrical and poetic: amid all the grungy noise, posturing, violent sex and sexual violence, one remembers the bleached close-up of the girl, immortalising her one night of true love.
© Adrian Martin and Rouge 2001/2009.