Saturday, February 25, 2006

49 Days

It's crazy to be doing a movie marathon of 4 movies in a row, and having 3 of which are from the horror genre. However, having completed those 3 first (the last being Spielberg's Munich), they again prove that the horror genre is diverse, and all 3 are different - the mystery-thriller, the ghouls-spirits, and the slasher flick. Onwards, shall we?

This Hong Kong horror movie has 2 titles, one the Chinese one which means the rhino's horn, while the other in English refers to the seven by seven equals forty-nine days of the initial afterlife, in which the body's spirit will roam the earth before proceeding to the netherland. And this movie actually talks about both in a rather interesting manner.

It's my second Stephen Fung - Gillian Chung pairing in a movie, the first being their take on martial arts in last year's House of Fury. This time, they take on the supernatural, with Fung playing a Chinese physician who had to leave his village, wife and daughter to try and make a comeback in his medical hall business. It took him four years to build a brand, but jealous opposition got him framed and imprisoned. Gillian Chung plays his lawyer who investigates and tries to prove his innocence, yet getting entangled romantically to the leading man. Thankfully the romance bit is tossed aside midway to focus more on the mystery of the story.

It's no M Night Shyamalan, but the influence from the writer-director is nonetheless heavy. The movie relies and references the mystical powers of the rhino's horn - the many uses that it has for Chinese medicine like acupuncture, and its ability when lit to see spirits. To those unfamiliar with Chinese afterlife, this movie too explains to certain depth what those forty-nine days are. To brand this film as an outright horror movie is incorrect, while it has certain standard aspects like the building of atmosphere, this movie plays more like a thriller-mystery, and its theme of Fate and Retribution.

Which somehow, plays a bit like one of my favourite movies, Frequency (Jim Caviezel-Dennis Quaid). While the production looks like a straight-to-television movie, the story is suprisingly above average. The spatial jumps that happen every now and then could be there for narrative sophistication, which could catch you offguard, but please hold your horses about potential plot loopholes when you notice them. I was finding fault with them, and they irritated me (thought it was slip-shoddy work), but as the movie progresses, you'd come to appreciate when the loopholes are addressed. Not all though, but most, and that's good enough by me.

The acting however, was below par. It's clearly a Stephen Fung vehicle considering the amount of screentime he has, but he didn't manage to flesh out his character thoroughly. Gillian Chung's role was also one-dimensional, considering that hers was a lead role too. There are plenty of smaller characters in the movie, but their roles were either to lend comic effect, or are the villains.

Being a PG rated film, it's a pity this movie has its gory scenes censored. But if you're looking for a mystery-thriller with a touch of the supernatural thrown in, then this movie would be my recommendation this period.

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