February 15, 2010

Watched: Guisi

Also known as Silk or 诡丝.

is one of the more heavily invested horror movies to come out of Taiwan lately. One brief look at the illustrious cast--Yōsuke Eguchi, Chang Chen, Karena Lam, Barbie Hsu (better known in Asia as Big S), Bo-Lin Chen--convinced me that Director ChaoBin Su had grand plans. Yōsuke Eguchi, Chang Chen, Karena Lam, are praised for their acting, while the remaining came to fame via idol dramas that require mostly pretty faces and good packaging. Thus, whether by intention or design, B0-Lin Chen left out no potential audience. The first category would attract viewers who value nuances and depth, while the second draws worshiping, screaming fans to the theaters.

In the movie, crippled Japanese scientist Hashimoto (played by Yōsuke Eguchi) heads a research team whose nominal work is in anti-gravity ""Menger Sponge." In reality, the research direction derailed once Hashimoto realized that the sponge can confine ghosts as well as allow the living to see the dead. To uncover secrets of life after death, the team captures the spirit of a young boy and drafts special agent Ye Qidong (Chen Chang) to find out his identity and cause of death.

The film is often times fraught with tension and suspense. The boy's mysterious past and even more mysterious death greatly complicate Ye's investigation. The special agent found himself at odds not only with the forces that made the ghost child but also with others on the research team, as differing motives cause members to fight one another for the possession of the young ghost. Together, the supernatural conflict and the more secular disunity give Silk depth uncommon in normal horror movies. Rather than non-stop exploitation of gore or cheap scares, the movie offers pensive reflections on life and death.

Obviously, Gui Si's premise is more involved than the typical horror movies on the market. In addition to an original plot line, Sci-fi elements combined with traditional spirit lore puts a new spin on the familiar ghost story. Although this mix-and-mesh is refreshing, jumps in logic are present. For example, the failure to convincingly explain how living transforms into ghost made an otherwise touching ending appear like a deliberate move to manipulate tears from the viewers. Some of the lackluster ghost scenes also detracted from the latter half of the movie, looking rather like washed-down parts from The Ring.

In all, Silk is a solid production that, because of some details, failed to become great. As a side-note, I also found the casting interesting. The amount of the time that each actor spent in the movie and his/her relative importance to the entire story is totally commensurate with the public perception of their acting skills.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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