SECRETS IN THE HOT SPRING (切小金家的旅馆) (2018)

Genre: Horror/Comedy
Director: Lin Kuan Hui
Cast: Zhang Ting Hu, Guo Shu Yao, Law Kar Ying, Mimi Chu , Hung Yan Siang, Lin He Xuan
Runtime: 1 hr 49 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Frightening Scenes)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 26 July 2018

Synopsis: Amid foul-blowing winds and squawking crows, there is an old, decrepit hot spring hotel deep in the mountains. After Xiaogin’s parents passed away years ago, his aging grandparents have struggled to keep the hotel alive but the young Xiaogin has been hesitant to take over the hotel because he is afraid of ruining the dream of his deceased parents. Xiaogin transfers to a third school during his fifth year of studies at high school. During his winter vacation, his grandparents tricks him into returning to the hotel. Xiaogin’s classmates Little Princess and Lu Qun tag along uninvited to escape being bullied by hoodlums at school. When the three boys are staying at the hot spring hotel, they discover it is haunted by ghosts. Their fear forces these three high school students who cannot stand the sight of each other to develop an extremely close friendship. As they get closer to the truth behind the hauntings, will they find out the secret that lurks underneath the steaming hot springs?

Movie Review:

With a title like this, don’t blame us for thinking that the Taiwanese movie is a sleaze pot filled brimming with sordid content. Sure, the male leads go topless in several scenes, but these sequences are anything but sexy.

On the contrary, there are some genuinely touching moments in the horror comedy that make this 109 minute production a worthwhile watch.

Helmed by first time director Lin Kuan Hui, the story sees three classmates making a trip to a hot spring resort during their vacation. The three boys can’t be anymore different: one is a cool jock, one is a effeminate with “Little Princess” as his nickname, and one is an outcaste who sleepwalks. Run by an elderly couple, the hotel begins to creep the boys out with what seems like supernatural incidents - cue the PG13 (Some Frightening Scenes) age rating and consumer advice.

The movie doesn’t rush through its storytelling, taking its time to play out countless slapstick scenes. Sporting a golden mop of hair, Zhang Ting Hu (who is more known for his performances in TV series) plays the suave protagonist who has to deal with his dim witted friends. The jokes aren’t exactly what you’d classify as intelligent, but from the thunderous laughter heard during the preview screening, you can expect a general serving of funny sequences.

Hung Yan Siang (Cafe Waiting Love) is aptly hilarious as the sissy of the trio. The member of Mandopop band Nan Quan Mama even gets to dress up as Joey Wong’s character in a scene spoofing the classic Hong Kong movie A Chinese Ghost Story (1986). His other supporting actor Lin He Xuan (Our Times) is a natural comedian who puts his talent to good use to his annoyingly funny character. Popular Taiwanese actress, singer and TV host Guo Shu Yao (When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep) also appears in the movie as an angry love rival who shows up at the resort.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong veterans Law Kar Ying (From Vegas to Macau III) and Mimi Chu (King of Mahjong) effortlessly play Zhang’s grandparents who may have more than inn keeping abilities up their sleeves. The duo’s performances are perfect examples of experience in showbiz counts when it comes to acting.

The ensemble cast has great chemistry with each other, and this makes for an engaging watch. The boys will remind you of the friendships you had in school, while the senior folks will have you wishing that all romances turn out this heartwarming.

Just when you think the plot is heading nowhere with its continuous jokes, questions are answered and they turn out to be truly moving. Without giving away too much, the last 20 minutes of the movie will have you re evaluating your views on family and kinship. As expected, the comedy ends on a high note with everyone coming together happily. There is nothing to dislike here - the humour is refreshing and there is just enough heart to make you smile.   

Movie Rating:

(This breezy horror comedy has a winning formula of likeable leads, refreshing humour and the right amount of heart)

Review by John Li

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