Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Review! Something A Little Different

Disclosure time: I was sent a free reviewer's copy of this flick, but you know I still try to be fair when I review these.

Malaysian horror. Yep, you read that right. The very first horror movie ever filmed in Malaysia! I know, you're dying to know how it was.

It was... tame.

And that's not always a bad thing. Read on.

Visits - Hungry Ghost Anthology (2004) consists of four ghost stories set in modern day Kuala Lampur and tied together by the Chinese festival of the Hungry Ghost. According to lore, during this festival the spirits in Purgatory arise and walk the earth for a day.

Quick aside: I don't get people who bitch about "long black-haired ghost girls" in Asian movies, ala The Ring or The Eye. Maybe I'm wrong, but last time I checked, there weren't many blond asians running around.

Back to the movie. Visits lacks the gore of many modern horror movies. Instead, what you get is creepy atmosphere and some pretty good storytelling. This is right up my alley, because I've always said I'd rather be scared than grossed out. Classics such as Legend of Hell House (the original, please) and more recent fare like Blair Witch Project followed this path to excellent results. I'm not saying that Visits is in the same class as those two, but it does have its moments.

Ok, four stories. Every culture has its version of "folk ritual to call up a spook". Seances, Ouija Boards, Watergate break-in, whatever. Here we see the Chinese way, and it wouldn't be much of a ghost story if it didn't actually work now, would it?

Two others explore the power of friendship in intriguing ways, including one where a girl wakes up in a hospital and discovers that she's the only survivor of a suicide pact. Only she has amnesia and can't remember anything about who or how or, most importantly, why.

The best story of the bunch is also the hardest to follow, and I give it high marks more for style and originality than for storyline, although there's a wondrous never-see-it-coming-in-a-million-years twist near the end. What's memorable about this one though, is that most of the story is told through the lenses of various security cameras located throughout an apartment building. Chilling and effective.

Pros: Solid acting all around. Very good music score. Interesting interviews on the disk extras (if you like that sort of thing). Cons: The characters are rather bland, more contrast between good and bad would've been an improvement.

Overall, Visits is a decent collection of ghost stories. Worth a rent if you prefer skin crawls to slasher flicks, and gentle enough to introduce a newbie into the world of Asian horror.