With Blood Ties being a serious thriller in tone, not many will know about writer-director Chai Yee Wei's funny bone which had been a hallmark of his short films, and this time with horror anthologies being popular vehicles for filmmakers to dabble in various aspects of the genre, Yee Wei tackles three distinct stories in his sophomore feature film, boasting a stellar regional cast in his stories that cover the spectrum of horror, comedy and a little bit of action to boot.
Told in a juxtaposed timeline with each segment being self contained, save for Mark Lee's drug dealer character popping up, and an Indian Father and Son team when you least expect, as they feature in all the stories to provide some comic relief. Smaller support caricatures also appear every now and then serving as opportunities for the director to dabble in gaudy humour complete with bawdy references, embedded in the stories to serve as sight gags in the same vein as how Hong Kong "mo-lei-tau" would treat them to milk some laughs irreverent to the plot.
Each of the three vignettes has its own star player where an ensemble cast got built around, and it's not difficult to see why. Mark Lee from Singapore with his characteristic screen swagger opens the first segment as a drug dealer having to collect his new zhng-ed Evo "Wiralution" vehicle, before a call from an ex-girlfriend (Candy Ice) resulted in a meetup that turned nasty, culminating in a deliberate crash along an empty stretch of road. At some point it does venture into Silent Hill territory with Mark's star power amped up to carry the film through its atmospheric build up, and without a doubt the highlights of this segment are its sound design and make up as it goes into overdrive with its extended Man versus Ghoul battle.
Linda Liao is undoubtedly the star of the second segment about a group of flight attendants out for some fun with colleagues played by Cavin Soh and Randall Tan up to no good through the spiking of their drinks. What was planned as a sexual romp turned out to be a series of mishaps with one dead body turning up after another. Perhaps the least ghoulish of the lot, this short enabled Yee wei to get his hands dirty dabbling with gore and close quartered action, though tame by Hollywood standards, with the liberal use of blood and the victim fighting tooth and nail for her life against a determined, though known, unintended killer. Plenty of quick edits were used to fast track the setup within an airplane and the nightclub to bring us to the story proper, and this probably didn't provide audiences with any vested interest in any character, especially the victims, which made this the weakest segment of the lot.
But Yee Wei saved the best for last, in a segment that gave rise to the movie's title. It's probably what's as close as one can get to a local remake of The Exorcist, though in more Oriental terms. We get introduced to an earlier familiar face in Alvin Wong playing the role of a medium who together with his assistant (Brendan Yuen) have scammed more folks than they can remember, until the medium decided to go honest with an opportunity provided by a mother (played by Hong Kong actress Zhu Mimi), whose daughter (Joey Leong, in danger of being typecast with her second role as a possessed woman in as many films directed by Yee Wei) is believed to be possessed what with her constant inexplicable violent behaviour, and fits.
This segment had a fair balance of Yee Wei's comedic and horror forte, with an engaging storyline to boot, boosted by the presence of wonderful performances from the cast, as well as their spot on comic timing. Make up made the pretty lass Joey Leong look more horrific than her first outing in Blood Ties, with strong technical aspects complementing a story that had much more than meets the eye, with some naughty innuendos slipped in for cheeky laughs as well. Alvin Wong is certainly the star here for his well written role, and his pairing with Brendan Yuen turned out to be a certain highlight for their chemistry on screen.
It is in this episode that Yee Wei brings about and draws upon references to the more Oriental ghoulish folklore, where in his debut feature explored that of the significance of the 7th day after someone's passing, and here the belief on the potency of blood from a black dog, as well as the convention of representing ghostly possession through being tip-toed (so that ghouls can slip under the soles of your feet).
From some of the production stills released on the Internet, they may suggest richer, more detailed plotting in the second segment especially with scenes set onboard the jetliner, as well as the hotel involving Benjamin Heng. The third segment, the longest, also probably had a more verbatim explanation to its back story and rationale behind the haunting, but I suppose in the interest of time some scenes would have to be unfortunately shortened. Still, as showreel of sorts, Twisted demonstrates Yee Wei's strengths in crafting spooky tales of different horror sub-genres complete with his comedic touches reminiscent of Hong Kong horror comedies of old, dealing with how karmic retribution works itself into the lives of the wicked.