Director: Ryon Lee
Cast: Michelle Wai, Alex Lam, Qi Yu-wu, Anna Ng, Richard Ng, Emily Kwan
Runtime: 1 hr 32 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Horror)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 21 November 2019
Synopsis: Sam grew up with her parents in a cold relationship. She lived in a sublet with her gambling father and nurse mother, as well as one of her favourite dolls. Sam began to feel that there was a little girl with her in the house and everywhere she went, even at her workplace. Sam felt the "doll" was a reincarnation of her late brother.
Being bullied by both her father and colleague Hua Jie, Sam asked for help from the "doll" to take revenge on these two persons in order for her to survive the unbearable pressure.
Nobody knew why but the bullies died in a strange way. Sam was stunned by these homicide cases and was concerned whether it had something to do with her wish to the "doll". As time went by, she met her cheerful childhood playmate Yok and with his assistance, the truth was slowly brought to the surface.
In Malaysian director Ryon Lee’s ‘Walk With Me’, Michelle Wai plays a humble factory worker Sam who is haunted by the ghost of a little girl, which she believes to be linked to her childhood doll Dao Dao. Not only that, Sam thinks that the ghost is really that of her unborn brother, which her mother (Anna Ng) had lost due to a freak accident when she was six months pregnant with him. That, and the fact that her father (Richard Ng) is both alcoholic and abusive, is the reason why her mother has mood swings that turn her either depressive or irritable, resulting in a family environment which is altogether unhappy and really quite miserable.
As if these were not enough, Lee, who co-wrote the script with Chang Ying-ying, further piles on the misery upon Sam. The rundown apartment block the family has just moved into happens to be haunted, and the family staying in the flat next door has decided to move out after one of them is possessed and needed the assistance of a Taoist priest to exorcise the spirit. Sam is also constantly taunted at work by a jealous co-worker Fa (Emily Kwan), and suspects that she had been raped by her boss (Qi Yuwu) after she loses consciousness and wakes up partially undressed in the factory one evening.
The only bright spot which Lee affords Sam is the sudden reappearance of her curiously cheery secondary school friend York (Alex Lam), who moves into the flat next to hers and promises to help her ward off evil spirits if she runs into them. It’s a lot happening within the short span of one-and-a-half hours, and true enough, it feels as if Lee were throwing every single horror movie cliché he could remember into the same picture in order to distract us from how underdeveloped the narrative really is. As much as the story is really about Sam, there is hardly any proper build-up to how all these events lead her to use her doll for murderous means.
Oh yes, lest we forget Dao Dao amidst all these other distractions, that doll and whosever spirit is within it is in fact the key to much of what is going on supernaturally. As Sam’s frustration with everything around her boils over, she asks Dao Dao for help in getting rid of her father, then her co-worker, and lastly her boss. Like you may expect, the ghost does so in brutal fashion, leading Sam to question if she had gone overboard in the first place. There is an interesting twist at the end with regard to the relationship between Sam and Dao Dao, although that might have worked better if Lee had bothered to tell a more compelling story in the first place.
To his credit though, Lee does conjure a creepy atmosphere in the dilapidated building where Sam first encounters the supernatural. That Sam and her family belong in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder imbibes the film with a sense of hopelessness, which in turn reinforces why Sam’s mother would cling to the past and how Sam would be more psychologically vulnerable to the forces of evil. There are some modestly crafted scare sequences throughout the movie too, though Lee has a habit of relying on jump scares to get a reaction out of his audience.
Frankly, few Hong Kong-based horrors have been truly outstanding, and in that respect, ‘Walk with Me’ certainly fares better than many others we have seen. Alas, that is probably not enough for horror fans, whose standards would no doubt have been raised in recent years by such stellar genre fare as ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Insidious’; in fact, it is clear Lee is trying to channel both J-horror films and possession movies into his own mishmash. It’s a decent entry on most counts, and if that is enough for you, then you’ll probably won’t mind that there is more style than substance in this pastiche..
(Good atmosphere and some choice jump scares cannot quite disguise the fact that this pastiche of J-horror and possession movies is more style than substance)
Review by Gabriel Chong