Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SILK: A Case of 'Rojak Horror"

SILK (psychological thriller)
Cast: Chang Chen, Eguchi Yosuke, Karena Lam, Barbie Hsu and Berlin Chen
Director: Su Chao-pin
Time: 128 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

SILK poster
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? With a tale about crippled scientist Hashimoto (Yosuke Eguchi) capturing a ghost with his anti-gravity invention called the Menger Sponge, you would think that Silk is another “Ghostbuster” caper with a few scares thrown in. However, instead of scares, all we get are a lot of mumbo-jumbo about spiritual energy, microwave frequency, parental love and a gossamer-like thread of Silk that is supposed to link all these things together.
And halfway into the movie, you would realise that Silk is just another Asian production jumping on the bandwagon of successful Asian horrors like Ringu, The Grudge and The Eye. Nothing makes sense in this fuzzily-written psychological thriller which is reportedly the most expensive (US$6.2 million) movie ever made in Taiwan.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Things start falling apart early when Ye Chi-tung (Chang Chen), a local police sharp-shooter, is called in by Hashimoto to probe into the background of the captured ghost of a boy (Chen Kuan-po). Besides being able to speak Japanese, the cop can also lip-read, which comes in handy in translating the mumblings of the little ghost they had trapped in a dilapidated Taipei apartment. Who was the young boy and how did he die? Why is his spirit still lurking around?
Sure, our cop hero finds the answers to these soon enough but apparently this is not enough for writer-director Su Chao-pin who is intent on endowing his movie with subplots and 'narrative depth'. Somehow, one of the subplots seems promising, though. This concerns Hashimoto's assistant Su Yuen (Barbie Su) who resents having Ye as the hired snoop. She also has the hots for Hashimoto. What has she got against the cop? Does she have an agenda of her own?

LOWLIGHTS: Alas, Su Yuen is quickly disposed of in one of the movie's scariest sequences and what we have left are a bunch of irrelevant subplots and themes. One of these concerns Ye's mother, who is critically ill in hospital; another involves the dead boy's mother, a psychotic. There is a romantic angle, involving Ye's girlfriend Wei (HK star Karena Lam) but it is largely undeveloped. Lam, the most watchable of the cast, is simply wasted here.
It would have helped if the audience is made to feel for some of the characters but we get nothing of the sort. Hashimoto and Ye are portrayed as soul-less guys who do not even care about their own lives. And the story of the boy-ghost is so trite that it is a forgettable. What irritates us most is Su's self-indulgence with his inane story, dragging the footage to almost two hours when the plot has run out of steam 30 minutes earlier.

HIGHLIGHTS: We have no complaints with the technical aspects of the film, provided by a team from Hong Kong. The photography (by Arthur Wong) is up to par and the music (Peter Kam's) enhances the atmosphere.

THE LOWDOWN: Film-maker Su got the attention of Taiwan movie-goers with his comedy Better Than Sex in 2002. He should have stuck to comedies instead of trying to con viewers with such 'rojak horror' that mixes science with supernatural cliches and mundane human problems.


At 1:30 am, Anonymous Oxymoron said...

I kinda like the film. It's a novelty, the kind of rojak that doesn't really insult my intelligence entirely. It's not scary, just entertaining. Besides the makers put effort in laying out the multitude of plots, and weave them into one unified theme, of love. With all the cliches of horror films prevalent in the market today, (not to mention the lack of ideas, look at what the Americans doing, recycling Asian horror films), Silk is okay.


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