Dir: Chao-Pin Su
Star: Chang Chen, Yosuke Eguchi, Karena Lam, Po-Lin Chen

While the Asian ghost story may seem like a dead horse in need of no more flogging, this proves there's life in the genre yet, adding a scientific angle that opens up new doorways. A Japanese research team, armed with a new material that can make spirits visible and contain them, has succeeded in trapping a child's ghost in a Taipei apartment. Wanting to find out more, they recruit an unwilling local cop, Tung (Chen), to investigate and find out who their 'guest' is, and how he died. However, uncovering this may not be everything, as the head of the research team has his own goals, and the project is also on the edge of being shut down, after a spectral shootout results in some collateral damage.

There's any number of ways this can go, but you'll likely be surprised to hear that this actually ends up a heartwarming tale about, of all things, two mothers' love for their children. The director also wrote the script for Double Vision, which is a favourite here, and this boasts a similarly excellent storyline, with numerous twists. If it's guilty of anything, it's cramming too much in, as some aspects, such as Tung's on-off relationship with his girlfriend feel almost like afterthoughts. You could also argue that the horror aspects are underplayed: given this is a film about ghosts that can reach into your body and stop your heart with a squeeze, it's remarkably non-scary.

On the other hand, it makes for a fine paranormal thriller, that feels more like The X-Files than anything else. It's greatly helped by a good performance from Chen: he's fierce, relentless and an undeniable bad-ass, and also utterly devoted to his mother, who's seriously ill in hospital. This contrast could easily seem artificial and false, yet Chang gives the character a great deal of humanity. With this as a foundation, the movie works efficiently and entertainingly, and combines logic and emotion to very good effect.

[The DVD was released through Tartan Video USA on June 12th, including deleted scenes, out-takes, an alternate ending, behind-the-scenes footage and the trailer.]

June 2007

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