By Shelly Kraicer
Starting from a seemingly unmotivated samurai-style sword attack in present-day Taipei’s main train station, Terrorizers circles back and around again and again through a complex network of characters—a student, an aspiring actress, a cosplayer, a masseuse—spawning threads and mysteries that it eventually knits back together into a disturbing portrait of today’s Taiwanese youth. Ho Wi Ding showed a distinctive visual flair and creative approach to narrative in his first two features (the comedy Pinoy Sunday and the dystopian thriller Cities of Last Things, winner of TIFF’s 2018 Platform competition), but this time his combination of offbeat humour and creepy violence feels unsettling, off-kilter. The film’s title is a nod to Taiwanese master Edward Yang’s entirely more integrated 1986 postmodern thriller, but Ho’s film seems more indebted to that director’s less well-known network-narrative picture A Confucian Confusion (1994). At the core of Terrorizers is a deeply problematic portrait (arguably sympathetic, or at least ambivalent) of a violent incel figure that some audience members will (justifiably) find unpleasant to watch. Ho pushes outside of anyone’s aesthetic or moral comfort zone here, and it’s not clear that the provocation comes with a commensurate payoff.