Another entrant in the done-to-death ‘I see ghosts’ sub-genre of Asian horror, and it faces some tough obstacles. We’ve already been bombarded by so many films of this kind that, by now, the appearance of a pallid presence evokes nothing more than a yawn. Oh, yeah, another dead person. Where’s the fun in that?
And there have been some fine films in this genre, such as the original The Eye, the tense Thai film Shutter, and the lavishly coloured Visible Secret which also starred Shu Qi. Films like these have defined and extended the genre, making it harder for subsequent films to have any impact.
So. A tough row to hoe. And to be honest, this one doesn’t have the punch of those earlier films, whether because they came first or because this one is a little limp. Despite Shu Qi’s performance, which is good, it’s hard to relate to Joey. She comes across as selfish and a bit of a drama queen, and is the sort of girl you’d like to slap.
The use of a minor character to explain various plot points doesn’t help, either: it’s usually a sign of a scripting weakness, and feels that way in this film. It’s hard to keep with the flow when we get what’s effectively an ad break, giving us the story so far. Feels like a diversion.
One aspect of this film which sets it apart from the others is the focus on pregnancy. This gives the directors scope for some truly sick-making moments, such as the birth in the stalled lift, complete with floating long-haired ghost intent on reincarnation. But if you really want to explore gynaecological ickiness, I suggest you check out Fruit Chan’s wonderfully squeamish Dumplings: it’s a better film, and has the added bonus of inducing a fervent interest in contraception.
Overall, the film just doesn’t hang together that well. The purported motivations feel contrived and unconvincing, the ghosts don’t do much besides hang around, and it’s an easy film to drift away from. The crucial final scene is surprising and very well done, but it doesn’t pack enough punch to save the film, and the coda provides closure with extra saccharine. So we’re left with a bland aftertaste and an unsatisfied hunger.