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Inner Senses
|     review    |     awards     |     availability     |

Karena Lam and an unwelcome guest
Year: 2002
Director: Bruce Law Chi-Leung
Producer: Derek Yee Tung-Sing
Cast: Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing, Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Waise Lee Chi-Hung, Valerie Chow Kar-Ling, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung
The Skinny: Incredibly well-produced horror-suspense thriller features fine acting and an involving, suspenseful storyline. This is ultimately an entertaining ride, though the end result is remarkably free of any lasting effect.
Review
by Kozo:

     Though it starts out as an obvious Sixth Sense ripoff, Law Chi-Leung and Derek Yee's cerebral horror-thriller is an entertaining and worthy effort. They manage to tell an interesting story with just the right cinematic touch. For a Hong Kong film, this is easily above average work.
     Newly-minted Hong Kong Film Award Winner Karena Lam stars as Yan Cheung, an emotionally damaged young woman who - that's right - sees dead people. Though she's become ultra-tense thanks to her constant frights, she elects to move into a new apartment by herself. Landlord Norman Tsui advertises the flat as having lots of natural light, but unfortunately there's something called nighttime. When dusk arrives, Yan is stuck in a spooky, closed-in space all by herself, and before too long she starts seeing apparitions of Tsui's dead wife and child.
     Enter psychiatrist Jim Law (Leslie Cheung), a workaholic therapist who has elaborate theories to the origin of ghosts in a person's psyche. According to Jim, ghosts are simply the result of the imagination, created by imprinted conditioning (i.e. ghost stories or cultural superstition) and a person's tendencies to believe the fanciful.
     Jim is assigned to Yan by her former doctor Wilson (Waise Lee), who also happens to be Jim's friend and Yan's brother-in-law. Jim immediately pegs Yan as a practicer of his pet theory. He believes she's a self-centered, emotionally unstable crybaby who attributes her fears and failures to the presence of ghosts. In true movie-therapist style, Jim makes Yan's case his personal crusade, and resolves to get to the bottom of her extensive emotional hang-ups. Though resistant at first, Yan eventually agrees to Jim's counsel, and even begins attaching herself emotionally to him.
     Newcomer Karena Lam does a fine job opposite screen veteran Leslie Cheung, and gives a compelling and even genuine performance. As usual, Cheung overacts at key times, but it works for his part. Law Chi-Leung's direction shores up any overkill in the acting, and it also helps hide the film's inherent unoriginality. While the story is thoughtful and well-developed, it still rings of your usual horror/thriller genre devices. And Jim's attempts to cure Yan become your standard doctor-patient drama with romantic issues thrown in for good measure.
     However, when hour two rolls around, things change. They really change. In fact, if you're one of those "no spoilers" moviegoers then I highly suggest skipping the next paragraph. I won't be giving away too much, but a few hints might spoil the ride.
     Yan's emotional/ghost-seeing issues are the film's immediate focus, but the film eventually shifts to its true subject: Jim Law. Jim is far from the balanced, stable doctor that he initally appears to be. While he does care about his work and his patients, he's not a healthy puppy. In truth, Jim makes Yan look like the poster child for well-adjusted individuals. He has serious, serious, problems and when they eventually come to light, not just Jim's sanity is called into question. There's a possibility that his theories are dead wrong, too.
     At this point, things get really unsettling damn quick. To achive this, director Law Chi-Leung pulls out a full bag of suspense-thriller tricks, meaning very little actual action. Suspense is achieved through uncluttered stillness and silent dread. Aided by fine cinematography and art direction, Law manages to put together a horror-suspense flick that bears some comparison to Japan's seminal chiller The Ring. Like that film, Law works to create a spiral of fear and madness that looks like it's going to send everyone straight to hell.
     However, just looking like it's headed to hell is a far cry from actually going there. When all is said and done, the most remarkable thing about Inner Senses is how incredibly free of weight it truly is. The film is involving and even affecting, but it isn't really haunting - which would seem to register as a failure given the film's chosen genre. Inner Senses actually isn't a failure. On the contrary, it's an involving motion picture that does its job extremely well. However, it's also a film that doesn't really hold up upon repeat viewings, as it lacks any real emotional resonance. The film's a great ride, but once it's over, it's over. (Kozo 2002)

Awards:

22nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Winner - Outstanding Young Director (Bruce Law Chi-Leung)
Nomination - Best Director (Bruce Law Chi-Leung)
Nomination - Best Actor (Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing)
Nomination - Best Actress (Karena Lam Ka-Yan)
Nomination - Best Sound Effects (Kinson Tsang Kin-Cheung)
39th Annual Golden Horse Awards
Nomination - Best Actor (Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing)
9th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Recommended Film
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
    DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Tai Seng Entertainment
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX / DTS 5.1 ES
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
English subtitled "making of" featurette, filmographies, trailers

image courtesy of www.mov3.com

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