At first look, Curse of the Deserted may seem like an Inception knock off with its dream within a dream, story within a story sequences, where we follow the characters in waking up from their conceived notion of reality, only to find that there was wool firmly pulled over their eyes, and you'd have to pause and figure out whether they're in dreamland, or otherwise. This of course frustrates when it becomes a way to cop out from a sequence, and for a horror-thriller, doesn't really live up to its genre billing. Instead, it's a romance movie through and through.
Curse of the Deserted deals with relationships, and whether the love between a couple can muster enough sincerity and honesty to pass the test of time, and whether the silent vows to be with another person can withstand challenges along the way. That in essence is the story between Gene (Shawn Yue) the successful writer, and his cloying/annoying girlfriend Gigi Ouyang (Kitty Zhang), who made a pact with each other to talk about and revisit an old and strange village together, only for the former to use it as a premise to write a bestseller.
It tells the story of a ghoul called Rouge, which resides in the well of the titular village, where couples come to put their love to the test. If they were to fail, then legend has it that her spirit will possess whoever is the untruthful party. So 4 friends start to question Gene about the whereabouts of this village, and by stealing his manuscript, make their way there. Naturally things start to go bump in the night as these 2 couples have their own respective secrets. Gene also finds himself haunted by strange emails apparently signed off by Rouge.
And that's only one veneer of the perceived story here, and just about where things get remotely scary. When you thought this would be another run of the mill horror tale about revenge, the narrative throws multiple curve balls at you with its non linear, fragmented narrative, and tossed everything up in the air. It's like a poor man Inception, where it deals with realities or perceived ones, but here it does so and catches you offguard, rather than to let you in upfront, and to go along with the flow. Not that it's confusing, but the delivery as mentioned, frustrates since it obviously didn't know how to carry on with the story, and was desperately looking for an exit, the worst of all comes in the final moments.
You can tell that production values is mediocre at best, and seriously, threw away its premise in woeful manner. It had promise if it decided to stick to one single narrative, rather than to bite off more than it can chew with what it thought is an intelligent attempt to befuddle, and ended up insulting the intelligence of an audience. The throwaway sideshow characters such as a paranormal expert, the whiny bunch of friends, and Kitty Zhang's inexplicable cloying voice and antics, all serve up as a really scratchy effort.