‘Painted Skin’ is the 2008 film directed by Gordon Chan. Screenwriters were Gordon Chan, Abe Kwong and Lau Ho Leung. Based on the anthology Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling.
A nomadic horde has beautiful Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) among their ill-gotten treasure. The leader quickly claims her. He offers his heart as a token of love. She rips it out to eat. Xiaowei is an immortal fox spirit or demon. Keeping her youthful human appearance requires a special diet.
She’s “rescued” by General Wang Sheng (Chen Kun) and his men. Wang takes the helpless maiden back home as his honored guest. He doesn’t understand why his wife Peirong (Zhao Wei) is bent out of shape. More discomfort to follow. Pang Yong (Donnie Yen) shows up on their doorstep.
Pang and Peirong were in love but she left him for his friend. Wang doesn’t check Xiaowei when she slowly takes over. Servants obey her and disrespect Peirong. His wife doesn’t hen peck or undermine him.
They were equal partners in the marriage. She ran the household and took care of business every time he was on patrol. The other woman has him wrapped around her finger.
Demon Xiaoyi (Qi Yuwu) steals hearts for his beloved. Xiaowei never returned the affection. The trail of heartless bodies leads Buffy err Xia Bing (Betty Sun) the slayer to town. Pang sticks around to be near Peirong. Although it’s painful to see her with another man.
Someone turns serial killer. This is just the distraction Pang needs. He teams up with the determined yet inexperienced rookie slayer. Xiaowei’s plan to get rid of the competition is working. People turn up dead after meeting with Peirong. Making the town believe she’s the murderer.
Xiaowei actually reveals her true form to Peirong. Hubby thinks jealously is the motive whenever she tries to tell him the truth. Only Pang and Xia believe her. Getting proof is difficult. Wang being wishy-washy doesn’t help.
The good: The F/X, sets and costumes. Who’s with Xia? Don’t you want to knock some sense into Pang? She likes you. You like her. Peirong won’t leave her husband. What’s wrong with Xiaowei? Runaway and live forever with bad boy Xiaoyi.
The bad: The plot featuring two love triangles AND two unrequited love interests. Servants threw their beloved, kind hearted and generous Madam under the bus for a duplicitous and manipulative stranger?
The ugly: Big rewrite. Keep the love triangle with Pang, Peirong & Wang. Establish Xiaowei and Xiaoyi moved there three to five years ago. Frequent business travel is part of their cover story. Separately Pang and Xia discovered a pattern, followed the bodies then teamed up once they arrived. Xiaowei and Xiaoyi set up Wang to take the fall. Pang has a way to win his love back.
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