Hong Kong Ghost Stories (Mandarin)Written by administrator
There are some horror films that genuinely spook you; then there are others that give you goose bumps because they are so badly made. Hong Kong Ghost Stories falls unequivocally into the latter category.
The supernatural features strongly in the movie, as one would suspect from such an unambiguous title, but the truly otherworldly qualities of the film are its incoherent plots, wooden acting, and shoddy special effects.
Comprising of two completely unrelated stories (except for the common element of unruly ghosts), the movie opens off cheekily enough, with life-sized paper figures at a funeral coming to life, and eventually introduces you to the first story, which is directed by Wong Jing, director extraordinaire of nonsensical movies, or as fans of Hong Kong cinema would call, the mo lei tau. He brings this inanity into the film, and yet infusing a horror movie with his trademark sensibility would prove disastrous.
The first story, “Classroom”, revolves around Miss Yip (Jennifer Tse), a temporary schoolteacher who is getting over a break-up with her good-for-nothing former boyfriend. Her teaching stint starts off decently enough, but the eeriness starts escalating at the school: she finds herself locked in a toilet with nightmarish hallucinations; she finds out that a class she was apparently teaching was killed years ago. That’s about where the plot stops making sense, so telling you anymore will be pointless.
Wong Jing shows his ineptitude for sustaining atmosphere in “Classroom”: instead of tightening the air of suspense, he has scenes of genuine spookiness that cut to black abruptly, jarringly transitioning from a frightening sequence to one of no apparent significance, and the persistent bathos is insufferable. The acting here is also laughable, and the cast clearly lack direction from Wong. Jennifer Tse has a perpetual frown plastered on her face, and does little else besides screaming and running.
The second story, “Travel”, directed by Patrick Kong, shows just as much scorn for logic and intelligence. It tracks a group of friends who encounter something supernatural while on a trip. Chrissie Chau stars as Bobo, the dead woman whose funeral is attended by four friends (Charmaine Fong, Jacqeuline Chong, Harriet Yeung and Rose Chan) she made while on a trip to Thailand. The film jumps between the friends’ flashbacks of the trip and the real time at the funeral, where they meet Bobo's estranged lover Karl (Him Law).
Little really makes sense in this segment too, and there isn’t one single likeable character – they’re all selfish, manipulative, vengeful people. It is marginally more suspenseful than the first segment, though that is hardly praise in itself.
The only bright spots are the humour in the film, though these come across as very contrived and even incongruous to its tone. The directors have failed to meld comedy and horror effectively, and the resulting movie fails on both accounts.
Exorcise this movie.
Rating: 2/5 Raymond Tan