Review: Made by one of Thailand’s horror powerhouses, Sophon Sakdaphisit, The Promise tells a fictional ghost story about the country’s famous Ghost Tower —an abandoned 47-floor skyscraper, a reminder to the country’s downfall during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
Similarly to Sophon’s other films, The Promise builds the horror on dramatic foundation. Sophon has experimented on family tropes in Ladda Land and friendship tropes inThe Swimmer; in his latest work, he combines them both along with some urban legend and national history. Continue reading The Promise / เพื่อน..ที่ระลึก (2017) – Review
Review: The idea of reliving the same day in a loop a la Groundhog Day gets a South Korean treatment in Cho Sun-ho’s (writer of Killer Toon) directorial debut, A Day (a.k.a. Ha-roo). When I said ‘South Korean treatment’, it means that this film has some touch of melodrama and another shade of revenge thriller wrapped in a moving, time-loop story about life, death and grudge that glues them together.
In A Day, a glorified surgeon Jun-young (Kim Myung-min) keeps living the same day when he loses his daughter in a traffic accident. He’s en route to reconcile with the daughter when a taxi hit the poor girl and instantly killed her. Soon, as the doctor began to get engulfed by sense of helplessness and trauma, he found out that he’s not the only person to suffer the looping fate. Continue reading A Day (2017) – Review
Review: Taiwanese documentary filmmaker, Mu-Ming Tsai (Hanzi, Design & Thinking, Maker), spawns his first feature film, Paradoxical—a romance drama which goes hand in hand with a modest time travel chronicle. The result is an essay of love & time presented in a low-key, dialogue-driven cinema.
The film chronicles the blossoming relationship between an aspiring terrarium artist, Shi Jing (Helena Hsu, credited as Nai Han Hsu), with a cute geek, You Kong (Kenny Yen), whose job is related to a new time-travel technology called Time-lag. You Kong gets involved in a secret mission using Time-lag with a prodigy, Yuan Hai (Yuchen Ho); while Shi Jing begins to experience existential crisis as an artist. As their relationship grows, a thread of unrelated incidents around their lives starts to unravel a complicated connection between their past and their future. Continue reading Paradoxical / 時光 (2017) – BALINALE Review
Review: South Korean female director, Lee Soo-youn (The Untitled) showcases her admiration to Alfred Hitchcock as she borrows the auteur’s cinematic style to present her later thriller, Bluebeard. It’s a story about a divorced colonoscopist who recently moved to neighborhood dubbed as ‘the mecca of serial killing’ only to find himself tangled in a new chain of serial killings.
Aside from the Hitchcockian aesthetic, there’s nothing apparently new to offer in this thriller. The story can be manipulative at some times as it relies heavily on its barely reliable narrator, dr. Seung-hoon (Jo Jin-woong), along with sudden blackouts, rough cuts, and repetitive dream sequences. Bluebeard’s visual can sometimes be deceitful, too, as it plays with perspective. However, tensions are pumped up effectively in the beginning and kept consistently jolting out as we are following the protagonist’s self-realization upon entering a dark web of murders. Jin-woong consistently presents us a convincing portrayal of an unreliable narrator until the consistency falters by the middle of the middle act. Continue reading Bluebeard (2017) – BALINALE Review
As an avid fan of Siswono Gautama Putra’s 1980 cult classic Pengabdi Setan (a.k.a. Satan’s Slave), Indonesia’s most versatile director Joko Anwar crafts a highly inventive yet highly respectful remake—a nightmarish love-letter to a nightmare—in his own version of Pengabdi Setan.
Mr. Anwar reinterprets the original phantasm, reconstructs the core elements and injects his cinematic virtue to create a déjà vu experience over his fresh concepts of nightmare. Some core elements from the 1980 film are reimagined to fit Anwar’s concept; a completely new backstories are added into the foray; but the whole terror remains there. Even, at some points, this remake appears to be more compelling and terrifying than the original. Continue reading Pengabdi Setan (2017): A phantasmal love-letter
Review: Gerbang Neraka a.k.a. Firegate (literally ‘Hell Gate’) combines an urban legend about Gunung Padang in West Java with sci-fi bravura and horror apparition into making a rare genre-bending Indonesian film. The film focuses on an excavation process of the allegedly oldest pyramid structure in the world (said to be older than Giza in Egypt and Mayan in Mexico), which lies underneath a mountain. Like in other ‘pyramid films’, the excavation was plagued from beginning to end, with body counts start to rise from day to day.
There came the film’s trinity: a young archeologist who believes in no supernatural power, Arni (Julie Estelle), a struggling heresy-laden tabloid reporter, Tomo (Reza Rahadian), and a celebrity ‘demon hunter’ Guntur Samudera (Dwi Sasono). Intertwined by their own ambition in regards to Gunung Padang pyramid, those three protagonists began to intersect each other’s life and unravel a hideous secret about the mega-structure. Continue reading Gerbang Neraka (2017): Genre-defying mess