Inside the Girls (Nu Sheng Su She)- Waigaren Cinema
Fair Value of Inside the Girls: $4.00 for horror fans, $6.00 for mystery fans. This is a mystery movie being marketed as a horror movie. It’s all solidly PG-13, and it’s lacking in any real scariness, but it makes up for it with a very twisty plot and a well-portrayed final villain
TL, DR: Girls are getting killed off at a medical school.
Release Date and Context of Release: So here I am in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, in China. Having found only destitution in America, I am now trying to make a new start as a teacher, hopefully eventually moving to higher levels once I have gained a measure of fluency in the language.
While I am here on the steppes of Mongolia, I shall be striving to give Westerners a peak behind the bamboo movie curtain. I am certain that many of the films that I review shall never see release in the Western hemisphere. My grasp of Chinese is only adequate to be able to ask for the bill at this point.
A little knowledge can be a more deceitful thing than complete ignorance. I was told that Chinese woman traditionally regard college/university as the place to find a husband (in the older tradition of women in college). And yet, this film seems to depict a school which is very prudish, with strict gender separation. But that’s to be expected for 1930s China.
Another bit of context: Chinese culture generally loves Sherlock Holmes and mysteries in general. I’ve noticed that every bookstore I’ve visited so far usually has a prominently displayed anthology of Sherlock stories. I’m told that the reason for this popularity is because it reflects/reinforces a cultural ideal: study hard enough, and your sheer logic will become a super-power. You could say that Sherlock is the intellectual analogue of a kung fu master: one whose mastery of a skill grants him superhuman ability. So this film is more heavily focused upon the sleuthing of the characters, rather than on the activities of the killer.
More Summary, Please: In China, four is the number of death (mis-pronounce ‘Suh’, the word for four, and you get ‘seh’, the word for die), and is considered unlucky. So it’s a bad start when dormitory crowding forces a medical school to open up the closed ward and start filling up the rooms with four students to a room. And with such omens, we are introduced to our core cast- Xia Mengjian (actress Swan Wen), the virginal perfect girl; her best friend, Huiren (Donna Zhao); Aiwa, the nerdy, superstitious Christian; and He Guilan, the spooky girl. It’s not easy attending medical school when your shower hall is apparently haunted by the ghost of a woman who committed suicide in your dorm room. However, when the bodies start piling up, Mengjian sets out to solve the mystery, rather than just acting like a completely helpless girl. She may still end up getting tied down to an autopsy table, but at least she demonstrates some intelligence and autonomy before becoming the damsel figure.
In predictable fashion, the school is filled with suspects. There’s the crusty dorm RA, the creepy janitor, the overly enthusiastic professor (Jing Changshan), the class horndog and his clownish sidekick. Even the main love interest, Gao Munan (Andrew Yin), starts to seem suspicious. In some ways, this film is a 90 minute red band episode of Scooby Doo with the stakes raised- the core division between the cast is between the characters that buy the ‘haunted medical school’ completely, and the characters who remain skeptical and rational.
It’s Not a Porno! No, Really!: Yeah, the translators/ title makers really messed up on this front. I think it’s really meant to be ‘Inside the Girl’s Sorority’ or ‘Inside the Nurse’s School’.
That being said, the violence and nudity is somewhere more than what you’d consider PG-13 and not quite R. This is a film that could be called a hard PG-13, or a soft R. The camera pulls away from the worst violence, though there is blood, and the camera is more focused on shooting the backs of girl’s knees than anything else.
Onscreen Death Count: 5
The Antagonist: A surprisingly strong performance, the villain is simultaneously extremely bitchy and self-loathing, a curious mix of insecurity and malice.
How Terrible is it all, really? It’s more of a rated-R Nancy Drew movie, where medical students sneak around specimen labs at night, than it is a horror movie. It’s a mystery movie in structure where the external tropes of a horror movie.
Moralizing/Schadenfreude/Strafelust: Relatively balanced, in that the goody-two shoes get dispatched as well as the promiscuous girls.
Lessons on How Not to Die: Syringes are easy to conceal and can have a powerful effect in the hands of a person who knows anaesthesiology. Check your bedding, bags, and clothing carefully.