Genre: Horror/ Thriller
Director: Lester Hsi
Cast: Summer Meng, JC Lin, Vera Yen, Ning Chang, Ruby Chan
Runtime: 1 hrs 28 mins
Rating: NC16 (Horror and Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Clover Films
Opening Day: 13 July 2020
Synopsis: In the leap month in 2016, six Tunghu University students, who were running a camp, held a test of courage on the (in)famous Female Ghost Bridge. The Female Ghost Bridge is a forbidden spot on campus since rumor has it that years ago, a girl jumped off the bridge and drowned herself for the man she loved. Ever since then so many ghost stories about the tragedy have been circulating. In order to promote the test of courage, a group of students daringly did a live stream on the bridge late at night. To their astonishment, they caught the female ghost on camera, and it went viral with millions of viewers online. However, the group of students went missing soon afterwards... No one knows what happened, and the ghost stories about the Female Ghost Bridge keep spreading. Exactly four years later, an investigative journalist Lien Shu-yu (played by Summer Meng) comes to the Female Ghost Bridge with a cameraman, trying to find out about the truth. They can never expect that they would stumble upon the hell underneath the bridge, in which several spirits are forever trapped.
Like ‘The Tag-along’ and ‘The Rope Curse’, this latest Taiwanese horror is based on a real-life legend, which has it that a female ghost haunts the bridge of Taichung’s Tunghai University, such that those who climb the stairs immediately after the bridge at the stroke of midnight will encounter an extra step and go missing if they dare look back before reaching the top. That ghost is apparently of a female student who was supposed to meet her lover at the bridge to elope; but when her lover doesn’t show, she decides to take her own life and drowns in the lake below.
If the opening scenes have you worried that the movie will be told through shaky cell phone footage, we can reassure you that it isn’t; instead, director Lester Shih mixes first-person recordings with conventional shots to tell an intriguing tale of six university students who tempt fate by holding a ‘test of courage’ on the bridge. Without giving away too much, let’s just say that tragedy befalls two separate groups of students who attempt this foolhardy dare in 2012 and 2016 respectively, the significance of the years being that they do so at midnight on each of the leap days.
Four years after the tragic events of 2016, an investigative journalist Shuyu (Summer Meng) visits the eponymous bridge and its campus with a cameraman in tow in the hope of finding the truth. For the first hour, the plotting would have you believe that she is a mere exposition device, but writers Chang Keng-ming and Hao Po-hsiang pull a sleight-of-hand in the last third that gives her a pivotal role in unravelling just what connects the earlier two groups of students to one another; in fact, just so you don’t dismiss the parts with her around, we would tell you that Shuyu will reveal herself to be the connective tissue from this movie to its (highly likely) sequel.
Though the first hour may seem like standard haunted-school fare, complete with a ghostly female figure in long hair, the late twist will have you regretting if you had not been paying sufficient attention to the earlier two acts. Oh yes, you’d be advised to pay special attention to the desirable Wen De (JC Lin), who had just broken up with Hui Qiao (Ning Chao) and is seeing fellow friend Ru Meng (Vera Yen); for that matter, you should pay attention to each of these three individuals, whose connection with each other and to one another forms the backbone of the unexpectedly intelligent story behind the scares.
Certainly, it’s not often you come across a horror movie that is smart, but ‘The Bridge Curse’ packs a couple of shrewd twists you probably had not seen coming. At the same time, there are also a couple of standout skin-crawling sequences, including one where Ru Meng encounters the ghost in a design workshop lined with mirrors and mannequins, one where a fellow student among the six meets his death in the washroom while taking a dump, and last but not least a reckoning on the bridge itself where Wen De is confronted by Hui Qiao for his supposed indiscretions.
Told over a lean 88 minutes, ‘The Bridge Curse’ takes a real-life legend and turns it into a surprisingly intriguing tale that sets the stage for future instalments. If you enjoyed any of its earlier genre predecessors, you’ll surely take to this as well; in fact, we would argue that the storytelling here triumphs that of ‘The Tag-along’ and ‘The Rope Curse’, especially in how it links what unfolds across three timelines. As far as horror thrillers go, this is one worth making sure you’re mentally prepared for its twists and terrors.
(Like 'The Tag-along' and 'The Rope Curse', this Taiwanese horror based on a real-life legend packs a surprisingly smart story alongside an effective line-up of scares)
Review by Gabriel Chong