Hong Kong horror: it's cheap, easy to produce and generally
guarantees a quick - if not substantial - return. The recent
effort Haunted Office arrives with some veterans
of the genre (Jordan Chan, Law Lan and director/editor Marco
Mak), but it also corrals Karen Mok, Shu Qi and Stephen
Fung into appearing, too. This could indicate that this
film is a step up from such quickie exercises as the Troublesome
Night series. Or, it could simply mean that the stars
need the money.
The Chinese title for this
film literally translates as "Office has ghosts",
which this office certainly does. Stephen Fung is Ken, a
recent hire who becomes attracted to the lovely, but spiritually
harried Shan (Shu Qi). She's shadowed by a mysterious white-haired
woman who may or may not be dead. Meanwhile, worker Pat
(Karen Mok) is apparently terrorized by the evil demon who
resides in the last stall of the sixteenth floor woman's
bathroom, yet still decides to work late hours with little
or no support. And, evil bastard Richard (Jordan Chan) begins
to suspect that his entire staff (including the grand dame
of Hong Kong horror Law Lan) has become ghosts and is out
for his dyed-blond head.
Immediately, Haunted Office
suffers from the usual horror plot devices, namely the fact
that the characters are enormously stupid. Not only is the
office famous for nine people dying every July, and not
only do people actually begin to get offed, but our characters
decide to stay nonetheless. And some, like Pat, even submit
themselves to working late hours in near-perpetual darkness.
And where the hell is the security? Do they work for a living?
And how can a white-haired woman that everyone can see get
free access to a highrise office building? And doesn't anyone
realize that a person who always wears red is bad news?
Yes, Haunted Office requires massive suspension of
disbelief. It operates off of the same urban legend creepiness
that most modern Asian horror does, but it isn't convincingly
creepy. And, the film is resoundingly predictable.
So, after all that, how can
someone recommend Haunted Office? Well, the film
does have decent stars who turn in better-than-average performances,
and Karen Mok's segment (despite its ridiculousness) sets
a suitably creepy tone for the film. Jordan Chan's storyline
works despite Chan's overbearing performance, and the presence
of Law Lan (who probably scares the crap out of her grandchildren)
helps. And Shu Qi and Stephen Fung look good, though they
don't have much more than glorified cameos.
If expectations were higher,
then perhaps Haunted Office would get a more pronounced
thrashing. As it is, it succeeds at what it promises: mildly
entertaining horror. Director Marco Mak isn't really a guarantee
of success anyway, and it's worth being suspicious of any
production with a crew member named Not a Woman. Not a Woman
is really not a filmmaker either, but it's arguable that
he tries to be. If you choose to have Haunted Office
waste your time, you'll likely get what you ask for. (Kozo