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  Publicity Stills of "Naraka 19: The 19th Gate of Hell"
Courtesy of Shaw

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Lai Miu Suet
Starring: Gillian Chung, Vincy, Shaun Tam, Patrick Tam, Bonnie Xin, Maggie Lee
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG (Some disturbing scenes)

Opening Day: 6 September 2007


The story is based on the best-selling Chinese novel written by Choi Tsun. An enormously popular book among young readers, the dark tale is about a mobile phone game called Naraka 19 – The 19th Gate of Hell.

The novel has broken sales records with over 2,000,000 copies sold in China alone over the last two years. And the book has now been translated into many languages and is being distributed worldwide.

Rain is a young and beautiful university student, her nightmare begins when she received a SMS on her mobile phone – “Do you know what the 19th gate of Hell is?”

The same cryptic SMS message goes out to all the other students on campus, unwittingly involving them in a deadly mobile phone game. In this chilling game, if you lose, you die – Game Over.

Summarize Review:

Naraka 19 actually had potential in it’s premise but squandered it’s prospective away in the realm of poor execution. The special effects used to create the setting of hellish places in this tale were almost on par with the recent grandeur looking movie Recycle but it offered far too few of such nightmarish places to visit and suffer from the same problem that The Haunted School had with using special effects to conjure fears (ie: too many quick cuts). Another problem with this film was that it skipped one too many gates on it’s way down to the 19th gate of hell, effectively watered down the story telling process and overburden it with too many irrelevant subplots. Given that the synopsis declares the popularity of Naraka 19 in it’s novel form, perhaps it didn’t fare well on it’s translation to film or it’s hard to fathom the reason for it’s reputation.

Movie Review:

The Chinese believes that there are 18th gates of hell with each gate (or level as you descend) representing a certain form of torture for each specific wrong doings that an individual is guilty of. If you are a sex offender, you will be sent to the 5th level to be fried in oil. Or if you stirred up trouble by gossiping, be prepared to be sent to the 9th level to have your tongues ripped out. Naraka 19 is trying to offers an extra gate / level to the pre existing 18 gates that commonly known to most Chinese and what could be worse than the never ending inferno without any chance in reincarnation?

Confusingly, Naraka 19 posses the question but forgotten to answer it or even shred some lights into it.

Basically, Naraka 19 has it’s victims (or unwilling players) going through a series of level in a mobile phone game. Once the player reaches it’s final stage, the player would be granted one wish.

The concept of using mobile phone to explore hell was a rather intriguing idea and the psychological combat that the players had to go through has it’s potential but instead of focusing on this two elements, the film chose to branch out to many characters and subplots which was confusing and alienating.

The other notable part of Naraka 19 was it’s special effects which had it’s hits and misses. The impressive bit of the special effects was how it was used to paint the picturesque version of hell. It manages to capture the essence of evil that one would fear while visiting the underworld and in the safety zone of the theatre seats, it’s easy to gasp at the wondrously illustrated version of hell. But the disappointing bit was that there were far too few displays this hellish levels.
The unimpressive bit of the special effects would it how it was used to invoke the sense of fear. Like a recent Hong Kong horror film, The Haunted School, this film also uses quick cuts or extreme zoom in/out and close up on characters in a weak attempt to create scary ambiance for this movie. It’s either they never learn from the mistake that their peer just made recently or maybe this sort of fear tactic works in their region.

Beside it’s un-scariness, the way that the movie told it’s story was in the same manner that the lead character (Rain) undergoes the process of game play and it was done in a ultra fast manner with plenty of skip options. Slow revelation here are not of an importance here and with each level of hell so easily cleared (or skipped), it’s hard for the audience to emote with Rain. Sadly, the process of the Rain going through the various difficult mobile game play was what this movie had going so far and yet it was done in fashion that it seems that the filmmaker wasn’t interested to place any emphasis on the main sell point of the movie.

Instead, they chose to laden this movie with other character’s subplots that weren’t necessary to build the Rain’s supposedly tedious journey to the final stage and if it doesn’t help to build, it only served to distract and prolong the film in an unnecessary manner.

With it’s synopsis stating that Naraka 19 in it’s novel form has quite a major following among the youngster, I found it amusing to see a youngster beside me, fidgeting restlessly during the movie. Perhaps Gillian Chung is not his (and my) cup of tea or perhaps this movie really messes up the potential it has but in the end, this movie only succeeded in intriguing me to find out more about the more commonly known 18th level of hell instead of 19th one in Naraka 19.

Movie Rating:

(Naraka has it’s potential but suffers from poor execution)

Review by Richard Lim Jr

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