Visible Secret was among the vanguard of the “My left eye sees ghosts” sub-sub-genre of films to come out of Hong Kong recently. And it’s a pretty good one, I must admit.
It’s an extremely visual film, not surprisingly. The colour palette is striking: lush, deep, drenched colours, lots of night-time settings, and dramatic lighting make it beautiful to look at. Some might also say that Hsu Qi makes it beautiful to look at, although I’m not in a glandular position to comment. Suffice to say that she has impressed me as a capable actress, which may surprise those of you who’ve formed an image of me as a cranky, starlet-hating grump.
It also features Anthony Wong in possibly his shortest role ever, in more ways than one. First, he gets only one scene, really. Then, a substantial part of that scene features him as the disembodied head under a tram, as a result of a grisly accident (or should that be “a gristly accident”?).
There’s also the lovable Eason Chan as the bemused wannabe boyfriend of the lovely Hsu Qi. He’s endearing, he’s not overly successful with girls, and he’s an unemployed and woefully untalented hairdresser. He shares a character-ridden (ie old, grimy, and much-personalised) HK apartment with the marvellous Sam Lee, who provides all the comic genius you’ll ever need in a horror film.
On the production side, it’s directed by Ann Hui, which means it’s well-constructed, consistent, and well-paced. And while the HK ghost story genre has largely been populated by semi-comic low-budget films like the interminable (yet amusing) Troublesome Night series, this one delivers some real tension. It’s probably epitomised by a scene where a bunch of young people sit around on the beach at night, telling ghost stories: spooky, tense, and rivetting.