Three posts in a day. You lucky people! Right, so whilst “Sleepwalker” was a crushing disappointment because of the pedigree of the film maker and lead actress, I had no such expectations here. Because this is a Portmanteau film with two Ghost Stories directed by two of the most populist (that is they make pretty awful lowest common denominator movies) Hong Kong Directors – Our old friend Wong Jing, and hitherto only once reviewed in this Parish, Patrick Kong. But, I did wonder if being constrained to a 40 minute tale, that some interesting stories might be told. Plus, these are proper Ghost Stories. In China! Maybe times are changing?
Jennifer Tse is Miss Yip, a supply Teacher. She has not taught for a while, and has recently escaped from a very abusive relationship. She is given a small workload, mainly teaching one particular class, who are known for being a bit ‘naughty’. So as you can imagine they make teaching very difficult for her. One student does catch her eye, and she tries hard to connect with this one. But when you meet the female students out selling their bodies at night, one begins to realise that maybe she is wasting her time. After one night trapped at school in a haunted Bathroom, it all comes crashing down on poor Miss Yip, as it becomes clear that these students are not of this world.
The best thing I can say about this is that is is underwhelming. It is really nothing you have not seen before, and anyone who has seen any film like this knows exactly what is happening. It is undemanding, and frankly, the scares that do appear are half hearted and badly conceived. But for 25-30 minutes, it is pretty harmless.
And then for the last 5-10 minutes everything unravels. But instead of the explanations being deserved and earned, we just have characters walking in off the street and explain to us what is going on. That's clumsy, but it also makes a mockery of what has gone before. Sure we know that our lead character is unreliable – but many more people were involved from the mortal plane, which just means the whole thing makes little sense. It’s a shame, because it could have been a decent if unoriginal little Ghost Story, but it is just deployed in such a half-arsed manner.
But that is art compared to Kong’s “Travel”. In which four really annoying women attend the funeral of another woman (Chrissie Chau) who died whilst on holiday in Thailand with them. Now the story moves back and forth in time, showing how we ended up here, and eventually a ghostly revenge is exposed. In fact, a couple of them!
I have a feeling that this might play a bit better to native HKers, as there is a lot going on here that is little jibes at HK TV culture, that whizzed a long way over my head. I saw the jokes, but didn’t understand them. But I do know annoying when I see it, and I know over-acting. If I say that Chrissie Chau is the best acting on display here, I think we all know what I mean.
The Ghosts take a long time appearing, but when they do, it is another old school reveal, and actually, I didn’t mind the story so much. At least Kong has but some thought into his story, and done something interesting with how he presented it. But, it really looks cheap, and lacks any sense of terror or dread. It is probably a better story than “Classroom”, but it lacks equally in the terrifying stakes. And those women are just so… ANNOYING!
The stories are preceded and joined by a strange little idea of an un-dead director, which could have worked if they had somehow been tied into the stories being told, and it had continued up to the end. Maybe it did. I turned off once the credits rolled. “The Return of Hong Kong Horror” says that poster. Sadly it forgot to bring any fun, any imagination, any inventiveness, and certainly no heart. Not Recommended.
But, maybe, this does show that the Chinese powers that be are going to loosen their stance on Ghosts in cinema, and if better people can get involved in the writing and Direction, then possibly this could be a good thing. Or it shows Wong Jing is just such a powerful character, he can do what he likes. Let’s hope for the former.