In June, I was on a rather fast-paced tour of mainland China for two weeks. It was difficult to find time to blog. I wouldn’t have been able to post anyway because access to my website was blocked. Now that I am in Hong Kong, I have no more problems with restricted Internet access. I have had a little time to read, write, and blog.
As I mentioned in the conclusion of my last post, I planned to follow up my review of “Tales from the Dark 1” with a look at its sister film, “Tales from the Dark 2.” The latter is also a compilation of three short horror films, all based on short stories by Lilian Lee and helmed by Hong Kong directors. As I hinted in my last post, the horror of the second collection is much more hardcore than that of the first. It is more explicit in terms of sexuality and violence. As a result, it is a Category III film (no one under 18 admitted) under the HK rating system.
The first short, “Pillow,” tells the story of a nurse, Chow Ching-yi (Fala Chen), who develops a problem with insomnia. She buys a new pillow that helps her to sleep. However, it also has paranormal powers that allow her to spend her dreaming hours in the arms of the ghost of her dead boyfriend. As she begins to spend ever more time with her pillow in bed, her health starts to fail. Will her pillow turn out to be a blessing or a curse in the long run?
Written and directed by Gordon Chan (“Beast Cops,” “Fist of Legend,” “Painted Skin,” “2000 AD” and “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen”), this short relies on misdirection (both of the audience and of Nurse Chow) to enhance its horror. It employs has some jarring visuals, such as the scene from which the still above was taken. It is also the first time I have seen used in a horror film the trope of being slowly killed by having sex with a ghost.
Hide and Seek (迷藏)
Directed by Lawrence Ah Mon and based on a screenplay by Mathew Tang, “Hide and Seek” tells the story of what happens when a group of teenage delinquents decide to explore their former primary school building, which has been closed and stands derelict. Despite being warned by the custodian not to remain after dark, they decide to stay overnight. They play a game of hide and seek in which the person who is “it” is called a ghost. Unfortunately for the teens, the school is haunted by real ghosts who are malevolent spirits.
This short has a solid concept, but it runs a little long. It loses some of its momentum as a result. It is the weakest of the three films in this collection.
Black Umbrella (黑傘)
This is arguably the strongest short in the portmanteau. Here Lilian Lee adapts her own short story to create the screenplay. The director is Teddy Robin, who also plays the main character. Uncle Lau is a mysterious and strange man who uses his black umbrella to fight criminals and defend the innocent. However, there is more to his history than meets the eye. When he meets a prostitute who attempts to entrap him into paying for her services, he undergoes an horrific transformation that reveals his true nature.
This trilogy is available via Amazon Instant (when I viewed it, it was a Prime selection). It runs 87 minutes. Dialogue is in Cantonese and Mandarin, with subtitles in English. Watch the trailer: