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The Haunted School

(left) Tsui Tin-Yau and Theresa Fu
(right) Amanda Lee, Tsui Tin-Yau, Dennis Mak, Steven Cheung, and Don Li
Chinese: 校墓處
Year: 2007
Director: Cash Chin Man-Kei
Producer: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung
Cast: Tsui Tin-Yau, Theresa Fu Wing, Amanda Lee Wai-Man, Steven Cheung Chi-Hung, Toby Leung Ching-Kei, Dennis Mak Chi-Ho, Macy Chan Mei-Si, Don Li Yat-Long, Kelly Fu Ka-Lei, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Tse Suet-Sum, JJ Jia, Yuen Wai-Ho
The Skinny: As good as can be expected, meaning it's a passable diversion for those who dig generic teen horror starring semi-hot idols. For the rest of us, it's just unnecessary.
by Kozo:

A bunch of semi-hot idols get freaked out in The Haunted School, a so-so teen horror flick produced by the guy who directed the film that inspired The Departed. Infernal Affairs co-director Andrew Lau had a hand in this deadly-generic genre entry, though it's former exploitation king "Cash" Chin Man-Kei who's at the helm. Chin certainly seems to have learned from Lau; Haunted School is full of flashy editing tricks and completely superfluous style. Shock sound effects, overamped screams, MTV-style flashes and cuts - Chin employs a full repertoire of stylish film technique in an attempt to jazz up this tired genre. He partly succeeds; Haunted School is egregiously stylish, which could amuse ADD-addled audiences looking for more than the usual slow-moving Asian horror fare. Whether or not you should see the film is relative to what you're expecting. Those looking for transcendent Asian horror should look elsewhere, while those looking for afterschool time killing with similarly-uniformed high school friends may be partially amused. However, regardless of who you are, this is not a good film.

The action picks up at an all-girls school which is about to get four new students. The problem: they're all boys. The arrival of Hon-Keung (Tsui Tin-Yau of Shine), Dick (Steven Cheung of Sun Boy'z), Ben (Dennis Mak of Sun Boy'z) and Charlie (EEG product Don Li) sends the all-girl student body into a tizzy, but stern teacher Miss Fong (Amande Lee) vehemently disapproves. She cites the school's many strangely stringent rules, including one that forbids the students from falling in love. However, the rules have more to them than a punishment of detention; the school actually has a mysterious tragic history tied to the rules, which is spelled out rather explicitly in the film's opening credits. Basically, you break a rule and some ghostly spectre of the school comes after you, usually resulting in your untimely death and the appearance of a black person-shaped shadow on the school lobby wall. Each day a cleaning lady tries to wipe off the shadow, but it never seems to disappear. One would think that little fact would make everybody leave the school right away, but it seems the school has still been in business for twenty-plus years with disturbing person-shaped shadows clinging to the walls. Parents: please do better research when choosing schools for your kids.

Once kids start getting offed, its apparent that people better take these rules seriously. That the rules run counter to your usual youth activities - dating, smoking, generally acting rebellious - offers up some decent suspense in Haunted School. That suspense, however, is usually negated by the bombastic style, which basically telegraphs whatever ill fortune is about to occur. Fast cutting, screen flashes, and plenty of bloodcurdling screams all combine to make this one of the most tiring teen horror films around. Even more, the characters themselves aren't interesting enough to make what happens to them matter. Their conflicts and issues are routine, and when they start falling in love, one is hard pressed to care. When Charlie breaks into the girls dormitory to tell Cat (Kelly Fu) that he loves her, the resulting syrupy confession of affection borders on nauseating. Likewise, the budding romance between Hon-Keung and frigid head prefect Yat-Man (Theresa Fu of Cookies) isn't very interesting either. The two are probably the most watchable in this group of young idols (sorry Steven of Boy'z, but you lose this battle), but their pairing feels like just another requirement on whatever genre checklist the filmmakers devised. Some creativity or surprise would be welcome, but there seems to be none on offer here.

Still, it's not all disappointing if one remembers what they're watching. Haunted School is routine stuff, and hits many of its marks well enough that viewers who dig this exact genre may find the proceedings to be passably diverting. There are the occasional freaky images, and Menfond Digital's work is effective when it's not cheesy or fake-looking. Also, there's always some guilty pleasure in watching teen idols get offed one by one. Those who go in with the proper expectations will probably not be disappointed by Haunted School. Unfortunately, those expectations aren't very high, and having those lowered expectations pretty much means that you expect to pay money for a middling-to-poor movie experience. The ability to appreciate bad movies is virtually required if you expect to tolerate Haunted School. Either that, or you must be so enamored of one or more of these idols that you'll watch them in nearly anything. As there are two members of Sun Boy'z (Steven Cheung and Dennis Mak) and also two members of the now-defunct Life is Beautiful (Toby Leung and Macy Chan), one suspects that attracting these types of moviegoers was exactly what the filmmakers intended. Which ultimately means that Haunted School is probably not for most of us. (Kozo 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Special Features

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