Just as a certain satirical spy film reminded us to ‘remember the henchmen’, the Pang Brothers return and asks of us to think of ideas otherwise discarded. If a writer can breathe life and soul into a character and a world, what happens when they throw an idea away? Can an author be haunted by creations otherwise left undeveloped and what responsibility does a creator have to their creations?
Will I stop asking these questions and get on with whether this film is worth watching? Well. Since I asked so nicely…
Re-cycle is the Pang Brothers return to solid horror after their dubious The Eye sequels. Unlike the Eye films which are set firmly within our world but slightly removed, into the realm where ghosts move unseen to the rest of us, Re-cycle takes us into a land completely alien to the mundane – a fictional land made up from the mind of a fictional character. As is the trope of these stories, such a journey through this ‘Wonderland’ brings insight into the everyday world just as the journey is fraught with the strange, the beautiful and the dangerous.
There’s a nice irreverent sensibility to the introduction of the land of the dead. Being a land of not only ghosts but also discarded ideas, the visual background is richly populated with dilipidated versions of underdeveloped ideas and the just plain cool. It is almost as if every dumb idea the Pang Brothers or the production crew have ever had found its way on screen and given a new (if entropic) lease on life.
The thrills in the film rarely occur outside of the introduction to Ting Ying in the beginning. Even in this introduction the thrills vary little more than the stock standard sudden faces and silhouettes in reflection and through smoked glass supported by eery music intentionally used to create tension. It is used much more effectively when she first walks through the alleyways of what we otherwise think to be purely the Deadlands and the atmosphere is of being hunted rather than haunted. There’s a certain ickiness involved through the land of aborted babies but when passing through the land of the discarded, it can hardly be avoided.
After a luscious introduction into the world, the majority of the journey is comparitively lackluster and certain scense feel like filler when zombies and funerary rites are introduced. It is almost as if we needed reminders that this is a journey through the land of the dead or that our protagonists need to meet certain quest requirements (Take OBJECT. Use OBJECT on MONSTER HORDE) before achieving their final goal. The revelation itself is also somewhat telegraphed though it is worth while sticking around for the final plot twist.
In the end Re-cycle is an enjoyable enough film with some very luscious scenes from which, ironically enough, so much life is breathed into the land of the dead. The Pang Brothers certainly seem to have fun in creating a world populated with the the unfleshed but also with the two-dimensional and the purely derivative that, as long you can get in on the joke, that fun communicates through.