SLASHER MONTH: He Lives By Night (1982)

A happily married graphic designer soon learns that his marriage isn’t all that happy, as his wife is cucking him with a man who dresses up in a woman’s white fish-net stockings. The married man goes insane and now feels the urge to dress up in women’s clothes and murder any woman who dares to wear the same white stockings. Now he has his sights set on a female disc jockey.

This movie’s a weird combination of giallo-infused slasher with romantic comedy, which I haven’t seen done before. It’s also packed with wacky moments, like a girl being born out of a slot machine in a stage show, directly followed by a kill that is lifted directly from TenebreHe Lives By Night actually feels like a movie that has heard the “are DePalma and Argento aware of one another?” question and says, “What if we made a movie that’s all Dressed to Kill and split screens and hazy photography but with the neon hues of Bava’s best student?”

Making this a movie that’s suddenly shot up on my list of films is the fact that it has some of the most garish movie punks ever lensed by a camera. Have any punk rockers worn KISS makeup at any point other than in movies and All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling? Regardless, I love every minute of this and the scene where the two shoplifting punks are met by the killer is great.

I’ve also never seen a movie where the killer makes use of a 7-UP machine.

Just to settle the “Is it a giallo or slasher?” debate — spoiler warning — the bad guy goes through a window and falls to his doom, cementing its place in the former genre. But it’s really a movie all on its own, where despite the fumbling in the dark comedic cops, it succeeds.

Director Po-Chih Leong has had a wild career. Born in England, he made most of his early movies in Hong Kong, including Foxbat, which was written by Terence Young and stars Henry Silva. He also made the arty Jude Law vampire film The Wisdom of Crocodiles, the Canadian slasher Cabin by the Lake movies and even some action films with Wesley Snipes and Steven Segal (what JCVD was too busy to work with another HK director?) and a Joe Mantegna Spenser TV move before going back to Hong Kong to create The Jade PendantThe Bounty Hunter and Baby Blues.

A killer that saves little girls from cars. An all-night talk show DJ who is also a nightclub showgirl. Ineffectual cops. Punks. Murder. Yes, He Lives by Night has it all and then some.

You can watch it on YouTube.

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