SYNOPSIS: A group of attractive young strangers joined a "survival game" led by a TV host and a photographer on a remote desert island. Among them were Peng Fei and Yi Lin. Each person had his or her own agenda but was chasing after a common goal: one million dollars prize! Greed drove them to plot against each other tit for tat the moment they boarded the boat. Yet lust was still brewing among the youngsters under the blue sky on the vast sea. No one sensed the danger crawling near.
Dense fog on the beach, bizarre shipwreck, jungle full of traps and numerous sign of death indicated that this was by no means a simple "game". Yet temptation of the money overtook the fear of death. A map unveiled the mystery of the island and hinted the hidden treasure but it also opened a door of death.
The survival game became a race to escape death. The only refuge turned out to be a grave: an abandoned leprosy hospital with a century old death curse. Each time the mysterious urn cracked open, a killing was followed. One after another, the teammates dropped dead as the supernatural events escalate. Horror haunted the entire island.
With the clock ticking, the truth will surface as the death coming to an end. Could anyone survive this "survival game"? You will find the answer in the last minute......
We used to think the cinematic language was a universal one- even if you did not understand the language, you would still be able to appreciate the visuals and the story behind them as long as you had subtitles. Unfortunately, ‘Mysterious Island’ defies this very logic, for the longer we watch it, the harder it was or us to understand how such a poorly made film could ever become a surprise hit in China. Yes, you’ve heard us right- apparently Mainland audiences have embraced what we felt was deserving of the honour of worst film of the year.
Though its poster may suggest that you are watching a horror film, you should know that a ghost film this definitely is not. After all, the Mainland State Film and TV Administration has stipulated that ghost stories are not allowed for screening. It doesn’t however restrict films from selling its premise with ghosts and anything supernatural, so as long as by the end it reveals that there is ultimately no such thing as spirits. So director Chung Kai-Cheong and his screenwriter Lan Yang have exploited this leeway for their film, and much as it throws around references to some ‘leprous ghosts’, you should probably guess that there will just be no such thing by the final reveal.
The opening prologue establishes a mother and son being chased by some unknown spirit, which ends up killing the mother but sparing the son. Fast forward to present day, and a group of eight young people are headed to the island for a reality show that offers one million dollars as prize money. Lan Yang’s characterisation is practically nonexistent, so beyond recognising the stars (Jordan Chan, his busty partner Mini Yang, another busty girl Maggie Li, her Japanese partner Hiro Hayama, a tall supermodel-like Janel Tsai, a bespectacled Anya, and Wong You-Nam) you’re not going to be able to tell the various characters apart.
Their ship gets wrecked on the way, and they end up on the island with only one map in Mini Yang’s possession. So sticking together, they land up at a dilapidated house which was some leprosarium before- hence the suspicion that the mysterious things which happen thereafter could be the work of some vengeful ‘leprous ghosts’. Or it could just be the work of a serial killer among them? Vacillating between either explanation, Chung assembles each scene sloppily, and there is neither tension nor thrills to be had at all. Even the conclusion is laughable, logic and reason not part of either writer or director’s consideration.
Given the material, it isn’t surprising that the acting is universally awful. What takes the cake is however the atrocious English dialogue between Shanghai-born TV presenter Jessica Xu and Hong Kong’s Shaun Tam who play the host and cameraman of said reality show. For reasons unknown, Xu and Tam are told to speak English throughout, even though everyone else speaks in Chinese- and let’s just say that both desperately need to take some English lessons.
But of course, on hindsight, their awkward English is probably the best thing about the film. As unintentional entertainment, it is the least painful of the rest of the badly filmed movie with poor scene setup, little to no continuity and absolutely slack direction. When we start assembling our list for ‘worst movie of the year’, you can be sure this will be on it. Now then, the biggest mystery would perhaps be- why was this so big a hit in China? That’s something supernatural the authorities should really investigate.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio sounds as good as a school filmmaking project. That said, the visuals that look like they are shot in digital are just as amateurish too.
DVD RATING :
Review by Gabriel Chong