Monday, November 28, 2011

Hong Kong Ghost Stories [ Movie Review ] ★★1/2

The Pitch

Touted as the return of Hong Kong horror, "Hong Kong Ghost Stories" features two spooky tales from director Wong Jing and Patrick Kong. From the good o' classic such as Mr Vampire to the crappy cheaply made ones like the Troublesome Night franchise in the nineties, it's been a long time since there's any comedic horror movies from Hong Kong. 

But can Wong Jing (King of low brow entertainment) and Patrick Kong ( Director of Mr and Mrs Single) revived this once popular genre for the Hong Kong film industry? Or is this just an excuse to put straight to video quality movie on the big screen to earn some quick bucks?

The Plot

The first story, "Classroom" is written and directed by Wong Jing. It stars Jennifer Tse (Nicolas Tse's sister making her acting debut) as Miss Yip, a substitute teacher who is returning to the teaching field after breaking up an abusive relationship with ex-boyfriend Chung (Pakho Chow). But she is not getting any break as her new class is unruly and her ex-boyfriend keep pestering her for a patch up.

Things got worse for Miss Yip when she saw some of her students going for compensated dates. Her offers to help them were met with threats and acts of defiance from her students.

And since this is a horror movie, Miss Yip subsequently got locked up in the toilet with slamming doors and flying blades (courtesy of the exhaust fan). Miss Yip soon discover that this is not your usual unruly class. It's the supernatural horrific type that wouldn't allow Miss Yip "abandon" them. To "entice" Miss Yip more, it seemed that there's a victimized student that would need rescuing. Could Miss Yip survive her class from hell?

Patrick Kong wrote and directed the second story "Travel" in a non-chronological manner. It started with the funeral wake of Bobo (Chrissie Chau) that attended by four of her friends (Charmaine Fong, Jacqeuline Chong, Harriet Yeung and Rose Chan). They spent their time playing cards and recounting their first encounter with Bobo and policeman Jack (Timmy Hung) at a recent tour trip to Thailand.

Halfway through the wake, Bobo's lover Karl (Him Law) arrived to pay his last respect to the deceased. The four girls quickly befriended him and invited him over for a steamboat dinner to talk about Bobo's last few days at Thailand. Karl then revealed some startling information about Bobo and his wife, Phoenix (Stephy Tang). Things are not what they seemed and it's twist galore with this segment.

The Perspective 

Comparing these two segments, Patrick Kong's Classroom was much more entertaining to sit through. There were some genuine funny moments that were delivered by the four female friends of Bobo. Ranging from digs at TVB / ATV (the two Hong Kong TV stations) to their rendition of extremely horny predators, the laughs kept coming to distract the rather weak performance from the rest of the cast (especially Chrissie Chau who got top billing here but was noticeably missing most of the time).

The climatic twist galore was mildly enjoyable even though it's filled with plenty of plot holes. It could have ended earlier with the strongest twist but it went a little too far with the finale revelation and in the process diluted the impact that it had going. "Travel" won't be the next gem in the Hong Kong comedic ghost genre but it's definitely more enjoyable out the two stories that Hong Kong Ghost Stories had to offer..

Wong Jing's Classroom was rather unremarkable. It's not the worst material that he had put out and neither was it one of his better works. It's like a bland functional time wasting TV program. There's a major twist at the end which was also ridden with plot holes. One of the enjoyable bits of this segment was to see how it tried to justified the revelation with contrived explanations.

The other noteworthy aspect of this segment would be that it provides a chance to check out if Jennifer Tse could act or not. Surprisingly, she wasn't as bad as her brother when he had just started out as an actor. Plus she looked like a young Gong Li to me and that makes it easier to follow her role as a protagonist in a rather uninspired horror story. It would be interesting to see what kind of choices she makes for her movie career.

Bottom line, both Classroom and Travel are as scary as Hong Kong comedic horror goes (which is to say that it isn't). Not exactly the type of show that you should fork out hard earn money for but it wouldn't be that terrible if one actually like this genre and actually paid for this. If you could wait, I am pretty sure that the cable TV or dvd rental for Hong Kong Ghost Stories would be out soon after it's taken off the cinema screens. Otherwise, it isn't a big lost if you give this movie a miss.

Rating: **1/2

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