In Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitle
Director: Lo Chi Leung
Cast: Shawn Yue, Kitty Zhang, Yue Xiaojun,
Hai Yitian, Liu Shuhan, Li Zefeng, Dai Xu, Chin Zihan, Fu Miao,
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & InnoForm
Rating: PG (Brief Nudity and Some Disturbing Scenes)
Opening Day: 12 August 2010
An ancient love curse drew four students
to visit a haunted village. When the trip turned horribly
wrong, it's up to a young writer and his ex-girlfriend to
face the supernatural behind the curse.
If you’ve seen the horror movie “Inner Senses” starring the late Leslie Cheung and the underrated Karena Lam, then you’ll probably, like this reviewer, be somewhat excited to watch director Lo Chi-Leung’s return to the horror genre. Alas, it’s better to approach his latest “Curse of the Deserted” with just about the barest of expectations, for what transpires is a dull meandering affair that has one of the worst twist endings ever in a film.
The thing is, it actually doesn’t start off that badly. Young writer Guo Jing (Shawn Yue) is fresh off the success of his book “The Deserted Village” about an abandoned village cursed for the past 500 years. Only couples who share true love have been able to return from the village, for it is apparently haunted by a widow, Yanzi, who once threw herself into the fire with her husband after he is burned to death by some superstitious villagers.
Though Gao Jing insists the book is a work of pure fiction, four college students decide to explore the village itself in search for the haunted mansion. Needless to say, bad things happen to them when they are there, true to the legend that infidelity will be punished. Up to this half hour mark, the film still trots along nicely and effectively sets up an eerie atmosphere for what it leads its audience to think would be a tense and creepy experience.
Think again. Gao Jing is inexplicably haunted by what appears to be the ghost of Yanzi, chastising him for not taking the legend of the curse seriously. So he looks up his ex-girlfriend Zhi (Kitty Zhang) who visited the village with him previously, hoping that she may find some answers. No such luck- he has a friend though, a paranormal scientist if you will, who explains these occurrences by electromagnetic waves. And meanwhile, those four students meet with greater misfortune as death afflicts them one by one.
Were he still making a horror thriller, these developments would probably sound intriguing. But it seems Lo is more keen on making a romance for within the next half hour, with characters take turns expressing their love for each other, how they will not take each other for granted, and how “love is not a game, it is not meant to be tested” complete with accompanying melodramatic music. For a movie that began so promisingly, this next half-hour is akin to slamming on the brakes and derailing any semblance of a good horror movie.
The last third of the film is equally appallingly lacklustre. Suddenly, we’re back to horror mode again- with a well (clearly an inspiration taken from “The Ring”) and some stolen ancient treasure thrown in for good measure. What? No more musings about love? And then to prove that they were smarter than you right from the start, the filmmakers throw in just about one of the worst cop-out endings ever on film. Unlike “The Sixth Sense” for example, that ending alone basically makes the whole movie irrelevant and nothing more than an absolute waste of time and is quite likely to leave you cheated, upset and frustrated.
Indeed, it suffices to say that this movie, based on a series of three novels- The Deserted Inn, The Deserted Apartment and The Deserted Return, remains (literally) stuck in its literary origins. Not even the appealing leads, Shawn Yue and Kitty Zhang, are enough to redeem this horrifying mess that doesn’t know what it wants to be- horror, romance, or even to be taken seriously for that matter. So consider this a warning like the one Gao Jing tells the students before their visit- stay away from this village, and from this film.
(This muddled mess of a horror film with one of the worst cop-out endings should come with its own warning label- desert it for your own good)
Review by Gabriel Chong