Director: Glenn Chan
Cast: Stephy Tang, Philip Keung, Tse Kwan Ho, Ben Yuen, Justin Cheung, Ling Man Lung, Jennifer Yu, Babyjohn Choi.
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Disturbing Scenes and Violence)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 2 March 2023
Synopsis: A gruesome yet bizarre murder has occurred in Hong Kong where a social worker surrendered himself after brutally murdering his family. Forensic psychiatrist Xu Xiao Jing (Stephy Tang) finds a linked case through her ability to “see” into people’s unconscious and suspects that another psychiatrist, Ren Chong Guang (Tse Kwan Ho), instigated the murder. Along with police inspector Ah-Fa (Philip Keung), Jing investigates the murders and chances upon yet another cruel murder – where the victims are elderly folks who had their skin flayed and hung up. As the investigation comes to a dead end, Jing too becomes a suspect. 'Shadows' aim to explore the question if "People are born good, or born bad but just acting good?"
There are many thought provoking movies about the human mind, and this one directed by local filmmaker Glenn Chan has the honour of being one of the better ones we have come across.
One of the co productions between FOX Networks Group Asia and MM2 Entertainment, this thriller had its roots as a concept by Chan and writer Chan Kai Xiang. Production began all the way back in 2018, before the movie's world premiere at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2020. No thanks to the pandemic, the title was put on hold for a wide release. Finally, the wait is over and viewers will have the opportunity to explore a darker side of human nature - one that might have been hiding in our own shadows all this while.
The protagonist of the story is Xiao Jing (Stephy Tang), a psychiatrist who has a supernatural power (don't ask) to enter her patients' minds to experience their traumatic memories. A tragic murder case happens and she is called upon by police inspector Ah Fa (Philip Keung) to assist with the investigations. The murderer is a social worker who killed his family members. Xiao Jing ventures into the murderer's subconscious and discovers a sad story, and begins suspecting that Dr Yan, the psychiatrist the murderer has been seeing (Tse Kwan Ho) might be up to no good.
Along the way, we see other cases unfold. They involve characters who exist in our midst. There is a woman who is abused by her husband, a school teacher who is constantly under the pressure of nagging parents, and a nursing home staff who feels that he should do something to alleviate the pain of his helpless patients. Each of these tales will end dreadfully, and while you are shocked, you'll also realise you may have read real life news similar to such cases before.
The movie is well shot and features an atmospheric soundscape that complements the foreboding mood. The scenes where Xiao Jing goes into her patients’ minds are what nightmares are made of, and imaginatively created by the filmmakers. Watch out for a sequence with a cult like setting that makes good use of colours to bring out the creepiness.
The movie gets points for its capable actors as well. Tang delivers a commendable performance as a psychiatrist who has to bear the burden of her patients, while Keung is expectedly good in his role. Tse is menacing without speaking, and the supporting characters are competently played by familiar faces in Hong Kong showbiz. The limited screen time does not stop cast members like Ben Yuen, Justin Cheung, Ling Man Lung, Jennifer Yu and Babyjohn Choi from shining in their roles.
The solid screenplay has you guessing throughout the 95 minute movie. Who is the ultimate villain in this story? Are humans selfish by nature? How wicked is the personality that lies beneath the good front that humans are constantly putting up? Is this supposedly unkind behaviour justified? And when the movie ends on a seemingly abrupt but effective sequence, you are left wondering how much of what you've seen on screen is a reflection of your inner self.
(Well-acted and thought-provoking, this atmospheric thriller will have you questioning how the human mind truly works in the face of evil)
Review by John Li