Saturday, 23 February 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Place Like Home




"She's not my sister!"

"She doesn't know that."

Whoa. Never before has a season arc kicked into life so soon and so thoroughly. Now we know: Dawn is "the key" in human form and Glory, the best and most fun big bad since the Mayor, is looking for her. It's going to be good, I know. A super-powerful, spoiled valley girl is an excitingly fun basis for a villain. I love her entrance, too: proper special effects, not CGI.

I get the impression that, this season, the writers' plans worked out much more smoothly, with no changes forced upon them. The big reveal about Dawn comes at the perfect position in the season, after just enough time has elapsed for us, the viewers, to accept and like her as a permanent part of the show. She isn't just there for plot reasons, though: especially with Joyce being suddenly and mysteriously ill she's yet another source of responsibility for Buffy, who already has both her slaying and her studies to worry about.

So momentous are the events of this episode that, for once, the rest of the ensemble gets relatively little to do. Yes, we get the grand opening of the Magic Box under its new owner, Giles, and more scenes of Spike stalking Buffy and trying to make sense of these confusing new feelings. It's a particular delight, of course, to see Anya in her new job.

Yes, this is an "event" episode and, as such, full of exposition rather than the character stuff that I usually like to talk about. But I'm excited about what's coming next. So many threads are bubbling away, arc-wise, if you'll forgive the horribly mixed metaphor. Willow's over-dependence on magic, Buffy and Riley growing slowly apart, Joyce's worrying illness, Spike's infatuation with Buffy, and now this. It's a heady mix, and I'm excited about what's to come.

Dollhouse: Ghost




"I know. Actions have consequences."

"What if they didn't."

I've finished blogging one of Joss Whedon's TV series (Firefly), and I'm currently blogging Buffy and Angel. So why not add Dollhouse to the rota and complete a full set?

I know the story behind how this series came about, of course: Executive producer and star Eliza Dushku took Joss Whedon out to dinner and got him to think up an idea to use as a vehicle for her, an extremely smart thing to do. The concept- Echo as one of a series of "dolls", blank slates who can be programmed to perform any activity required by this mysterious organisation- is absolutely brilliant, and so is this episode. Weird though it is to see familiar names from other Mutant Enemy productions in the titles (including Amy Acker, no less, and Fran Kranz from The Cabin in the Woods), this is a very different show from Whedon's previous stuff: no fantasy elements and the sci-fi elements limited to things that may plausibly happen.

This is a pilot, of course, and must be judged as such. Dushku's character, Echo (her real name may or may not be Caroline) is an interesting challenge for her: her memory is regularly wiped and other traits imprinted into her, so what consistent features are there on which Dushku can base her performance? Elsewhere, Amy Acker's Saunders, as a white coated scientist, may seem superficially similarly to Fred from Angel. She isn't at all similar personality-wise, though: here, at least, she seems very bitter.

We're told very little about the backstory, thus far. We're introduced to another "doll", Sierra, and told that each of them serves a five year "term", although it's unclear on what legal basis this may or may not be. The "dolls", when not on a mission, appear to be drugged or hypnotised into docility, receiving their "treatment" without demur. This is a deeply creepy concept.

The action-oriented kidnapping "A" plot is a corker, and illustrates how the dolls are used. Dushku is brilliant at showing the contrast between the "normal" Echo and the very different character of Eleanor Penn, an amalgam of several individuals who have been combined to make up the perfect hostage negotiator. Seeing this tempts me to see the whole concept as a metaphor for acting; it'll be interesting, I think, to keep this concept in mind throughout the series.

Grimm: The Three Bad Wolves




"The huff and puff days are over."

The Three Little Pigs, then. Naturally, the main pig is a police officer. What scriptwriter could resist that? We have wolves, pigs, a wooden house that gets set on fire. This episode's main gimmick, though, is a reversal of roles; a big bad pig is after the three Bludbaden.

This is an interesting perspective on the character of Monroe. Quirky though he is, he's a bachelor of very regular habits and rather highbrow. Other Bludbaden seem to be rather more bohemian and rock 'n' roll, unless I'm reading too much into things. I wonder if this is going to be developed? He also gets a bit of semi-metaphorical wild, kinky sex which, it's made clear, is very much the sort of thing he used to do in his bad old days but definitely doesn't do any more. At this point I really, really want to see an episode which digs deep into his background.

Arc-wise, aside from Monroe, there isn't a lot to grab hold of this week. Strong episode, though.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)




"I'm sorry, I was having a flashback."

So, Tim Burton did a movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Bound to happen, wasn't it? The book is perfect for his whimsicality (is that a word?) and visual style. There  is room, I suppose, for the complaint that Burton has become too comfortable with a certain kind of film and a certain type of approach- vaguely gothic, whimsical films in the fairytale style which tend to star Johnny Depp or the missus, Helena Bonham Carter, and that it would be nice to see him do something else for a change. But the formula works, again and again.

Here, for example, we focus on a poor family who live in a version of modern England in a kind of poverty which implies no Welfare State, and all of whom, Oliver Twist-like, speak in not entirely realistic RP accents. The town in which they live is a highly stylised version of an Industrial Revolution northern city, a sort of cross between Coketown from Hard Times and the paintings of L.S. Lowry. It's some distance from the American setting of Roald Dahl's novel (a childhood favourite, naturally), but it works wonderfully well.

The children accompanying Charlie on his tour of Willy Wonka's factory are deliciously horrible grotesques, as we might expect. It's an inspired idea to have the great Deep[ Roy portray all of the Ooompa Loompas, and their delightfully and darkly funny songs at each child's comeuppance are a highlight of the film, although the sequence with Mike Teevee, inveighing against the bad influence of television, has dated somewhat; the twenty-first century has very different, though equally silly, targets for its periodic moral panics.

Johnny Depp is superb, and suitably weird, as Willy Wonka. I didn't like the treatment of the character towards the end of the film, however. When he and Charlie take the Glass Elevator up and out of the factory we get not an exciting adventure with the Vernicious Knids but a load of sentimental family-themed twaddle that I could have done without. Still, at least this silly subplot gives us a glimpse of the great Christopher Lee. There are also lots of nicely metatextual gags throughout, and that sort of stuff is right up my street.

If you'll forgive the ending, this film is a delight. Yes, it's exactly what you'd expect Tim Burton to do with the source material, but isn't that what we all want?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Hostel Part III (2011)




"He's alive!"

This is a rather puzzling film; Eli Roth seemingly has no involvement, and it isn't set in Europe. At last we have a film in this franchise which is free of the slightly disturbing "Europe is Godless, immoral and evil" subtext that has existed thus far. Indeed, there are two Ukrainians who are kidnapped and taken to Las Vegas for the usual evil purposes, and the scene introducing them is able to show a nice bit of misdirection.

This isn't as good as either of its two predecessors in that it doesn't really develop the premise, although the room in which the paying customers sit to bet on the carnage is a nice touch in that it strongly evokes the tackiness of television game shows. Our three identification figures, blokes on a stag do, suffer the usual shenanigans with the twist that one of them is a baddie. None of them are likeable, though, with their liking for horrible, sweaty clubs with awful, awful music and their disturbingly rapey attitudes to women.

The actual gore is... well, yeah, uncomfortable. The bloke getting his face cut off and used as a mask is rather unpleasant viewing, and this sort of thing is rather more disturbing when divorced from the cleverness we saw in the first two films. Here it's just gore for gore's sake. The scene with cockroaches is even worse, and we get glimpses of similar horrors going on in side rooms.

The ending has a couple of nice twists, I suppose, but this film is pretty empty and all about the gore. 

Angel: Untouched




"Make love? What are you- from the eighteenth century?"

It's interesting to see the process of Gunn being slowly integrated into the scene. His gang seems already to have vanished, and the debate about whether to officially start paying him as a member of the team seems to make things pretty much final. Cordy and Wes certainly need a bit of help, what with Angel's sleepiness and Darla obsession.

This is essentially an episode with the spotlight on the deliciously evil Lilah, and a chance for me to praise the performance of the delightfully hissable Stephanie Romanov. She's so cynical as to invest an awful lot of time in the innocent, vulnerable and extremely dangerous Bethany. She's an assassin, in theory: interesting that Wolfram and Hart are meaning to kill Angel at this point. Her character is extremely well crafted; childhood abuse has taken away her self-esteem and made her promiscuous in a desperate but unfulfilling desire to please men with meaningless sex. Angel essentially helps her by interacting with her in a more meaningful way. I appreciate, incidentally, how the story declines to proffer a simplistic, anti-sex subtext; sex and sexual abuse are entirely different things.

Arc-wise, it appears that Darla genuinely is in Angel's room: intriguing. This is a relatively arc-lite episode, by recent standards, and the weakest of the season thus far, but my excitement has not diminished.

Buffy: Out of My Mind




"Isn't this better than using a flashlight like a doofus."

Yes, the Buffy reviews are back. From now on it's a cycle of Buffy / Angel / Grimm / Dollhouse (starting soon!), interspersed with a movie whenever I feel like it, plus new episodes of Doctor Who once they start on 30th March. I'm going to be very busy.

This episode surprised me a little; I assumed Riley was about to be dumped, but instead things just continue to fester between him and Buffy. However much she may be in denial and try to convince herself that she loves him, Buffy sees him as in the way: even Spike notices and, as we know, Spike is a perceptive judge of character. The whole a-plot about Riley's dangerously fast heartbeat is so tragic; he's risking his life to be more than normal, so that Buffy will love him. But she never has. Buffy reveals an awful lot more than she intends when she insists that sex with him is "relaxing". Graham is right in what he says at the end: Riley doesn't belong in a passive role as "the mission's boyfriend".

It's interesting to see Giles set up, after a year and a bit of unemployment, as proprietor of Sunnydale's magic shop, with lots of help from his friend. Anya's capitalist side, subtly hinted at until now, comes to the fore as Giles offers her a job. But the stand-out character of the episode, for me, is Harmony. She's taken up smoking because, like, that's what baddies do, but is horrified to learn that she's smoking in a "no smoking" area. She's as endearingly thick as ever, and her rapport with Spike is sheer perfection. Spike, meanwhile, is getting a lot of development vat this point: he's obsessed with Buffy, and only at the end of the episode do we realise how far his obsession has gone. This is very, very, interesting.

It's also becoming noticeable that Willow's use of magic is becoming excessive; this is something to watch. And Buffy's mother, once again, is not well. Is this supernatural, or something else...?

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)




"You really shouldn't fall asleep in class!"

I'm really not a fan of unnecessary remakes, particularly all the recent remakes of '80s movies; why not just make an original film? Still, this seemed the obvious thing to blog next, having just reviewed the original. It's an odd beast; this is, to date, the only film helmed by Samuel Bayer, whose career essentially consists of a highly impressive list of music videos, most famously Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", during the recording of which he earned himself a reputation as something of a tyrant. Given that background, he's given us a film that is as technically polished as one might expect, but it doesn't quite work: it's well-shot, but it just isn't scary.

There are many things about this film, not least the dialogue and performances, which can be said to surpass the original, reflecting both the general improvement in quality over time and the relatively higher status afforded to this remake in contrast to the low budget original. The story is more slickly told, more tightly edited, pacier, etc, etc. It's also rather noticeable, incidentally, that teenagers in 2010 appear to be far more mature and intelligent than they were back in 1984! I'm aware this remake has been criticised for its emphasis on Freddy Krueger's paedophile origins, although my impression of the original is that this has always been implicit: he was always a "child killer". Even so, making this explicit arguably distracts from the scares. I think the idea is to make the whole thing a metaphor for repressed memories of abuse, but this doesn't make the film any scarier.

General lack of scares aside, the new Freddy Krueger just doesn't work. The make-up looks good, but it doesn't look scary. Jackie Earle Haley is a good actor, but he's miscast as Freddy. And there are lots of things which, in isolation, are good ideas (the nods to the science of insomnia, the emphasis on the backstory, the twist that Freddy was indeed guilty of abusing the children), but distract from what should be a tightly focussed horror film.

Some minor points: this film, like pretty much all of both American and British popular culture, has a game called "tag" and the phrase "tag, you're it". In the playgrounds of Leicestershire, during my childhood, it was definitely "tig" and "tig, you're on". Is this a regional thing?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)




"Whatever you do, don't fall asleep!"

I'd never seen this film before. Yes, I know. It's bloody good, though. It isn't exactly the most expensive film ever made, the dialogue is a little ropey, and the obscure cast (including a very young Johnny Depp!) are not that good. But the direction is inspired, the set pieces are amazing, and it's so very, very, scary, even for someone like me who is far too conscious that what I'm watching is a piece of artifice to be easily scared. Plus, the whole style evokes an '80s video  by The Cult or Bauhaus or some such band, which is delightfully cool. The music, too, is wonderfully of its time.

The children's rhyme which pervades the film is hugely effective in building up Freddie. Robert Englund is superb. The whole concept of a monster that gets you in your dreams if you fall asleep is inspired. There are so many good things to say here. I don't know all that much about slashers of this vintage, but I wonder how innovative it might possibly have been to mix the slasher with the supernatural as this film does. The use of dreams just makes everything so, so much scarier. And the bath scene... brrr!

Of course, we start out with some hoary old tropes: four teens are in a house, ready to be picked off one by one. But the film is cleverer than that, and has a lot of fun with them. I couldn't help reflecting, though, that the plot sort of revolves all around the only means of communication being a house phone, which can be left off the hook by a stray parent. I remember 1984, but this sort of thing makes it feel so very long ago. 

Grimm: Danse Macabre




"Guess they're going to face the music."

"You went there!"

I really liked this one. A hardcore techno DJ as the pied piper: what's not to love? We get a potent mix of gabber, glow sticks and whatnot mixed with scenes of grinding poverty and some nice social commentary on the bleak life chances of those born into it. Social inequality is an insidious and terrible thing. It's the first time we get something like this with Grimm, and I appreciate it. It's appropriate, too; the original story has hints of squalor (the rats) alongside apparent glamour. But the glamour that Roddy enjoys as Wretched Cat is a transient thing, happening in underground, one-off raves. There's a marked contrast with the world of privilege and elite culture evoked by the violin lessons; Roddy gets a glimpse of another world but his expulsion confirms his social exclusion.

This one is much more story-of-the-week: there's not an awful lot of arc stuff going on, aside from our mysterious lady's seduction of Hank! But it's gripping, socially aware and well constructed plot-wise. This is my favourite episode so far by some distance.

Grimm: Lonelyhearts




"I don't wanna go home now!"

Interesting: this story is based on Bluebeard, which is by Charles Perrault, not Jacob Grimm. If they can do this sort of thing then the series has more legs than I thought it might. Also, the fact that this episode has roots in French folklore rather than German sort of widens the scope a bit.

Anyway, this episode looks good, with a damn good CGI beastie early on and a very colourful garden which highlights the brightly coloured fairytale aesthetic of this series. Also, the villain eats toads, which is well cool. He's a creepy, rapey bastard though.

Nick continues to be a dull character, but Monroe not only continues to be cool but is also acquiring more depth; he plays the violin, no less. His relationship with Nick, and its boundaries, is developing nicely, although the actors don't yet have any real chemistry with one another.

We get more clues about the Captain, he of the bad suits and mysterious doings: he seems to be some kind of supernatural Yakuza boss. I rather like the balance we're getting between story of the week and arc stuff.

Grimm: Beeware




"Don't you dare say 'heel'!"

This one's much better. I notice, though, that we've already got ourselves an episode based on a fairly obscure Grimm's fairy tale (The Queen Bee) on only the third episode. They need to ration the well-known ones, I suppose.

I like the concept of the episode, with the killer using a flashmob to remain anonymous. It's surprising to see Nana Visitor, too, looking not only much older than she did back in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but also much older than she did in Torchwood: Miracle Day. It's a much better written episode, with a gripping plot and the nice twist that the murderer is a goodie and on Nick's side. We also get a closer look at that mysterious woman (my lovely girlfriend has compared her to Darla off of Angel) who is in league with Captain Renard.

I think perhaps a format is beginning to evolve: a mystery of the week with developing plot arc. I'm still a little concerned by David Giuntoli's lack of charisma as a lead, but the series is looking promising.

Grimm: Bears Will Be Bears




"The only stains we've come across are wine and whoopee..."

This episode is based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, obviously, and the thought occurs to me: surely there are only so many Grimm's fairy tales, and just a handful of well-known ones? How will they avoid running out soon? It'll be interesting to follow this line of thought as the series goes on, methinks.

This episode is relatively meh; the couple's three teenage biker bear sons remind me of the wolf pack from Twilight: New Moon, especially with the Native American angle, and that's not a film I'm fond of. This is also the point where I'm beginning to notice the suspiciously large amount of product placement that there is for Apple stuff; the place seems to be drowning in iPods and iPhones.

The CGI bears are... interesting. The special effects in Grimm are nicely restrained and budget-friendly, though, with people's faces only briefly shown with CGI so we get the message about what they are, but that's it.

The backstory is interesting, though: Aunt Marie dies in only the second one. Our Luke Skywalker seems to have lost his Obi-Wan. And things are afoot: the police captain (American police ranks are so very military!) is plotting with the nasty woman from last episode. Two episodes in and we already have an arc.

Grimm: Pilot




"The misfortune of our family is already passing to you..."

Why Grimm? Well, basically it's my girlfriend's favourite programme, it's something to watch together, and the premise is pretty cool. Also, intriguingly, there's a Buffy connection in the person of David Greenwalt; this gives grounds for optimism. I'm going into this programme blind; I have no idea what the critics think and I intend to keep that way for as long as I realistically can. The only research I plan to do is to make sure I'm aware which Grimm fairy tale is being referenced by each episode.

Oh, and btw this isn't replacing Buffy and Angel; there are episodes in the pipeline. Watch this space.

Anyway...  to start with, a gripe: the DVD for Season One has no subtitles. This is a very basic failing and people might want to boycott it until, you know, it gets re-released in an acceptable form. But as for the content, I'm intrigued. I'm a little alarmed by David Giuntoli as Nick; so far he seems rather wooden. But the quote at the start, and the fact that the story seems to be based on Red Riding Hood, are both intriguing; I understand that each episode is adapted from a Brothers Grimm story. This leads to certain questions, of course: Nick comes from a long line of "Grimms", but did the Brothers Grimm exist in this universe? If so, presumably people within the narrative will soon become aware that they are reliving the fairytales. Things could get very, very metatextual, very, very soon. Good.

The mix of genres is interesting; a police procedural crossed with fairytale fantasy. The visual style, with its deep colours (especially greens) and dreamlike quality, evokes the same "fairytale" mood that was established in the 2011 season of Doctor Who, which had a very similar look. On the other hand we have a very promising "buddy buddy" cop dynamic, with the excellent Russell Hornsby as Hank. Frankly, I much prefer him to Nick as a character at this point. I can't help noticing, though, that Portland has the most palatial police station I've ever seen.

Obviously, this is a pilot, so we can excuse the amount of exposition we get here, especially from Nick's dying Aunt Marie. A fair amount of exposition comes from Monroe, our friendly "vegetarian" Blüdbad (the superb Silas Weir Mitchell), though, and he's cool. Very, very cool. My lovely girlfriend has compared him to Spike off of Buffy, and I can see what she means. I think I'm going to like this character.

The cliffhanger ending is well cool, too. I particularly like the musical contrast: the episode ends with Eurythmics' version of "Sweet Dreams" but the episode ends to Marilyn Manson's version. Cool. So far this looks as though it's going to be my sort of series.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Update...

Yes, I know- the blog has lost a bit of momentum of late, but fear not: it lives. It's just that I'm in the throes of buying a house and, well, you know...!

Rest assured that the next fifteen (yes, fifteen!) blog posts are already planned out with my notes ready for blogging, and that the Buffy and Angel posts will resume, as well as the ever-present movie reviews. I'm also going to start reviewing both Grimm and Dollhouse, plus Doctor Who once it returns. Watch this space...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Hostel Part II (2007)





“No, Dad, we’re going to Prague. It’ll be fine. It’s not the Ukraine.”

Sequels, eh? They can (often) be rubbish, or they can be The Godfather Part II. This one is more of a Scream 2, riffing on the tropes and themes established by the original in its gloriously playful, postmodern way. I rather enjoyed it. As with many good sequels, though, I may have enjoyed this more than the original but a lot of the credit for that has to go to the original, which established things that the sequel doesn’t have to.

It’s the same hostel in Slovakia. It’s the same drill, no pun intended. The premise has already been established. What’s interesting is how the film uses the fact that it doesn’t need to do so much exposition to vary things a bit. There are two perspectives; a new set of three American victims- this time all female- and also two paying “customers” who have paid to do the torturing and killing. This latter perspective, in particular, keeps things fresh and deepens the concept; Stuart and Todd are contrasted in that one is nervous and one full of bravado, but things do not turn out as expected. It’s interesting, however, if I can return to my point from my review of the previous film about the depiction of Europeans, that both victims and villains are Americans. All the European characters are pretty much instrumental; it’s the Americans who have the agency. Interesting, too, that Beth is the sole survivor by virtue only of being stinking filthy rich.

The first to die, Lorna, is the virgin, a nice if predictable subversion of the horror film cliché. There’s also more satire of the ignorance of the travellers (“Slovakia? Wasn’t there some war there?”) and possibly a deliberate response to the criticism of producing “torture porn” in the scene in which Lorna is slowly and sensually tormented and bled to death by a naked woman with a sword. It’s a cleverer and more self-aware film than its predecessor. I liked it a lot.







Saturday, 2 February 2013

Hostel (2005)




“I am the king of swing!”

Lots of people consider this people the poster child for “torture porn” and, yes, this is another film from the collection of my gore-loving, gorgeous girlfriend. I love her to bits but she doesn’t half like a bit of brutal violence every now and again. For me, such things tend to be a bit meh: I’m not titillated by graphic gore, but nor am I particularly squeamish. For me, it’s a thriller, and I’m judging it as such. Well, mostly. This review is going to be a bit whiny but believe me: I enjoyed Hostel as a thriller. It’s good. If you like a good thriller and don’t mind a bit of gore, you’ll like it.

Before that, though, a gripe. This isn’t directed by Quentin Tarantino, however much Pulp Fiction is shown on screens within the film: he merely “presents”. If there’s an auteur here, it’s clearly Eli Roth, who writes and directs. Why, then, is Tarantino’s name all over the bloody thing?

Another gripe, too: I don’t like this film’s depiction of Europeans. I suspect it isn’t deliberate, but some disturbing American prejudices about Europe show themselves here, at least to my European eyes. First we see Amsterdam, the uber example of Godless, secular Western Europe (although, as one line points out, the hedonists we see in Amsterdam tend not to be Dutch), and then we see Slovakia, a country whose tourist industry is probably not overly enamoured with this film. I suspect it’s more subconscious but intentional, but the subtext seems to be that European Godlessness, sexual openness and social democracy is immoral, bad and likely to lead to people being cynically tortured to death for profit. I should probably emphasise again, mind: I don’t think this is so much overtly intended as a latent prejudice finding its way into the narrative. Still, it’s the one big problem I have with this film. And yes, there are bits of dialogue which clearly satirise the American protagonists’ lack of understanding of the places they are travelling to, even though one of them is an Icelander, but I think the point is still valid. And, interestingly, all this reminds me of the conversation about McDonalds in Amsterdam that we hear in, of all films, Pulp Fiction.

One last gripe: the opening titles are so long that the film takes a million years to bloody start. All that aside, though, I actually loved this film. If you can stand the gore (there’s one particularly icky scene involving an eye), and one rather implausible coincidence towards the end of the film, you’ll enjoy Hostel.






The Eye (2002)





“The world is beautiful!”
              
Probably the best thing about being partially deaf is that, unlike most people, I have absolutely no problem with watching subtitled foreign films. My girlfriend falls into the category of “most people” however, so I’m watching this while she does other stuff. Thing is, though, I don’t really get scared by the supernatural in horror films; I don’t believe in it, and that’s that. But it’s deeper than that, really; I never “suspend my disbelief” when watching screen drama, always seeing as something that has been written, designed and shot. I just don’t get scared by anything in fiction, and that is that. Odd, I suppose, that I can still be moved emotionally by it, but let us not go off on too many tangents.

The Eye, being Hong Kong horror, is not from a genre of which I am hugely familiar. It’s good stuff- pacey, strong on character, and stylishly shot, however. The central conceit- a blind woman has her sight restored, but the eyes are donated by a deeply troubled woman cursed by second sight who had committed suicide- is ingeniously horrifying on a very basic level, and the main twist (I won’t spoil, but it involves a photograph) is brilliant. This film does more than just scares, though; the scenes with Ying Ying, a little girl undergoing chemotherapy, are heartbreaking. There are some nice dramatic moments (the early scenes evoke Bill Masen’s bandages being removed in Day of the Triffids), and the conclusion is extremely neat and satisfying.

One little side observation: we native English speakers are lucky to have such a lingua franca as our tongue. This film includes scenes in which two Cantonese speakers talk to a Thai nurse in English, the language of a small island halfway round the world.

This is an excellent film- scary, affecting, superbly shot and with some highly satisfying plot developments. The early part of the film is a little slow, perhaps, but the payoff is worth it. One word of caution, though: beware of a huge spoiler in the film’s tag line