The Tenants Downstairs 2016
Lou xia de fang ke (original title)
1h 50min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery | 12 August 2016 (Taiwan)
A loafer inherits an apartment block and lets out the place to a group of tenants, including a lusty gymnastics teacher, a geeky college student, a single father with his young daughter, a gay couple, a writer and a sexy female office worker. An incredible story is about to unfold as they start their lives in the same building.
Based on the novel of the same title written by Taiwanese author Giddens Ko, better known as his pen name Jiu Ba Dao (Nine Knives) to the Chinese community, he brings the novel to live with the help of the first time director, Adam Tsuei. Under the directions of Tsuei, TheTenants Downstairs serves as a symphony of people from different backgrounds, or more rather, a mass orgy on the dark side of human nature.
A homeless man turned landlord (Hong Kong veteran actor Simon Yam taking up the most challenging leading role) inherits an old abandoned apartment building from his relative. He rents out the rooms to ‘normal human beings’, which he believes they are flawed in certain way. Thus, the rooms were rent out to: A single father (You An-Shun) and his young daughter (Angel Ho), a lusty gymnastic teacher (Kaiser Chuang), a married lecturer (Taiwanese veteran actor Lee Kang Sheng) and his male student lover (Malaysian actor Bernard Ho), a geeky student (Hou Yan-xi) who believes he has the power of tele-portation, a office worker (Li Xin) who believes in making use of her body to climb up the corporate ladder, and a young lady (Shao Yu-Wei) who always carry a trolley luggage around into her room. With CCTVs installed in their respective rooms, the landlord satisfies his fetish for voyeurism. Making use of the individual’s living habits, the landlord decided to manipulate everyone, which leads to mistrust, mayhem and murder.
Rather than seeing it as a usual suspense thriller, The Tenants Downstairs serves more of an exploration on the dark side of human nature. Simon Yam taking the leading role of the landlord serves as a bystander to the daily life of his tenants, which he carefully records down their daily activities in order to bring the game up to the next level. While Yam was well known for his various roles in the Category 3 movies during his early days, his experiences helps him to take up the challenging role, which leaves the audience with a twisted mind.
The story can also be seen as a darker side of the society, where the apartment is a micro-society by itself, with the tenants and their behavior forms the reflection to the current society. For instance: the father develops a sexual attraction towards his young daughter (incest and pedophilia); the gymnastic teacher engaging in a sexual relationship with the office worker, which in return, induces physical violence towards her (domestic violence); the geeky student indulging in his own world (socially awkward), which ends up being seen as a intruder in the homosexual relationship between the lecturer and the student; the gay couple living in a secret lifestyle (one is married and dominant, another waiting to be enlisted into the army and submissive). However, Taiwanese actress Shao Yu-Wei seems to be a scene stealer from here, where she chooses her victims through seduction and kidnapping. Beneath the kind- looking face holds a twisted personality, where her role is a reflection from the role of Asami portrayed by Eihi Shiina in Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999).
With the mayhem created due to manipulation, it is no surprise that audience will get to see a movie filled with several adult contents. The Tenants Downstairs is not only something that is disturbing to the adult viewers, but also challenges the tolerance level, social norms and censorship regulations around the world. With the elements of voyeurism from Philip Noyce’s Sliver (1993), murder and cannibalism in Herman Yau’s The Untold Story (1993) and Audition, The Tenants Downstairs takes the strength from each film. With an unusual way of storytelling and unexpected twists, be warned and beware. Watch it only if you are ready for the unusual storytelling method from Ko, who also wrote the script. And no, this is a far cry from Ko’s sweet teenage romantic drama, You’re The Apple of My Eye (2012).
Note: The review is given based on the revised version created for Singapore market.
Director: Adam Tsuei
Writer: Giddens Ko
Stars: Simon Yam, Yu-Wei Shao, Xing Li
Release Date: 12 August 2016 (Taiwan)
Also Known As: The Tenants Downstairs