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BLOOD TIES (Singapore)

  Publicity Stills of
"Blood Ties"
(Courtesy of GV)

In Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, English & Malay
Director: Chai Yee Wei
Cast: Joey Leong, Cheng Pei Pei, Kenneth Tsang, David Leong, Vincent Tee
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: M18
Official Website: http://www.bloodtiesthemovie.com/

Opening Day: 10 September 2009


Many people believe when a person dies, his soul returns on the 7th night. After Shun was brutally murdered, his spirit returned to possess his 13 year old sister to exact his revenge. On the 7th night, blood will flow and just deserts will be served.

Movie Review:

We are still in the midst of the monthlong Hungry Ghost Festival of 2009, so if you are among those who craved for more shivers after getting a dose of the so-called hormedy (horror-comedy) that is "Where Got Ghost?", here comes "Blood Ties" to fill in the void for an outright local horror film, or so it first seems.

The film revolves around Shun (David Leong), a police detective who was murdered in cold blood with his wife by a group of drug dealers. Not being able to rest in peace, his spirit returns on the seventh night following his death to seek vengeance by possessing his younger sister Qing (Joey Leong). One by one, the evildoers are punished in equal measures until a sinister scheme is revealed.

Watching "Blood Ties" recalls those old revenge flicks which used to form a staple genre in both Western and Eastern cinemas, although they tend to be made with low budgets and given a restricted rating due to their unsurprisingly excessive violent content. Recent high profile entries to the genre such as Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" series and Neil Jordan's "The Brave One" which starred Jodie Foster have provided visual style and moral ambiguity elements respectively to elevate revenge flicks from mere B-grade entertainment fare. With "Blood Ties", local director Chai Yee Wei has elected to infuse the supernatural while setting the story against a Singaporean backdrop. The result is a gory, but not so haunting experience.

Like its title implies, what the film has going for it is the copious amount of blood gracing the screen. Characters are shot, stabbed and even castrated in the bloodiest manners imaginable, earning the film its M18 rating. We have director Chai to thank for giving us perhaps the goriest local film to date after his argument with the producer to retain these scenes instead of taming down the film for a more profitable PG or NC16 rating. Still, as bloody as things can get, there is little here that is explicit and graphic enough that the average horror fan may deem as repulsive.

Recognizing the fact that "Blood Ties" is an extension of his own 2007 short film of the same name, Chai has taken the effort to tell the story in a nonlinear fashion to instill a sense of uniqueness not unlike Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "21 Grams". Flashbacks and flashforwards force the viewer to pay attention for most of the time or risk losing out on plot details, but even if you have a low attention span, there is no reason to be overly concerned since what matters is to follow through Qing's (or rather, Shun's) journey and see that the evil mastermind is brought to justice.

The film's trademarks extend to its use of languages as well, clearly emphasizing the multilingual aspect of Singapore. All the characters are able to understand each other despite speaking different languages comprising Mandarin, English, Hokkien, Cantonese and even a bit of Malay. As possible as it may be, the idea still feels awkwardly far-fetched when put on screen. Think of the human characters in "Star Wars" being able to comprehend what the aliens say even though the humans don't speak a word of alien language themselves as an analogy, and you'll get the drift. Chai has also brought up the issue on the corruption of authorities by theorizing that contrary to popular belief, people become more greedy and corruptible precisely because of their high income. Pity though, that this is presented purely as a news report commentary in the film and not explored further.

Casting-wise, Chai has assembled a talented mix of youth and experience. The anchor of the story, Qing is brilliantly played by first-time Malaysian actress Joey Leong. Leong gives Qing the right touch of innocence when she is her normal self and yet displays an extremely vicious personality when she is possessed by her brother. Local actor David Leong from "Painted Skin" makes the most of his limited screen time as the pitiful police detective who just wants to live a fulfilling family life, only to encounter a horrifying death instead. If you find the actress playing his wife familiar, that is because she is Maggie Lee, a Singapore model who once appeared as one of the suitcase ladies in the local version of TV game show "Deal or No Deal". Lending their experience to the film in supporting roles are veteran Hong Kong actors Cheng Pei Pei and Kenneth Tsang.

Looking back on this Singapore Film Commission-funded film as a whole though, there is little to be savoured for those who demand some food for thought out of their movie-watching experience. "Blood Ties" is purely a straightforward revenge tale and nothing more. Even so, it is rather difficult to feel for Shun when he is possessing Qing at times as he is so caught up with vengeance that every ounce of his conscience is thrown out the window. The horror elements are at a bare minimum, as we get one 'boo!' moment along with an "Exorcist"-inspired sequence. Other than these, what we see is simply a teenage girl walking around while killing men who are more adept in killing. The minor twist and the sentimental scene in the end may liven things up a bit, but for this bloodbath of a movie, it's all about the execution (no pun intended).

Nitpick alert: I noticed a rip-off in the soundtrack during the later half of the film when the background music sounds eerily similar to a tune from "The Dark Knight". Perhaps director Chai should also spend more effort in having original music for his next film.

Movie Rating:

(Plenty of blood, little of everything else - strictly for revenge flick fanatics only)

Review by Tan Heng Hau


. Rule #1 (2008)

. The Maid (2004)

. The First 7th Night DVD (2009)


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