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The Unbelievable 3:
The Skeleton Road

Rachel Lam sits holding a holy relic in preparation
for a battle of spirits with a Thai shaman (not pictured).


Year: 2014  
Director: Chan Tat-Nin  
Cast: Rachel Lam, Master Szeto  
The Skinny:

Master Szeto is back and, with his mostly fearless crew in tow, he traipses across Asia in search of the supernatural. What he finds will either amuse or insult you, or perhaps both.  But will it entertain you?  That indeed is a mystery for us all.  To find out how this reviewer fared, read on…if you dare.

Paul Fox:

Back in 2009, when I reviewed The Unbelievable I felt cheated by the direct-to-video feel of the whole thing. Yes, the film was adapted from a long-running cable program in Hong Kong, but that was no excuse for the slip-shod production values. Since then, there has been a sequel, The Unbelievable: Channeling the Spirits (2012); a copy, The Cases (2012); and now this third film which, despite having a 2014 release, features a 2012 production stamp during the credits. So the first mystery is: Does this film count as a separate film or is it just a bunch of footage that didn’t make the cut for Channeling the Spirits? To get to the bottom of this, let’s explore the content more closely.

The Unbelievable 3: The Skeleton Road follows the same formula as The Unbelievable, with the crew walking to different parts of Asia to uncover some kind of supernatural phenomena. Often this “requires” the participation of a eye candy hostess, this time in the form of Rachel Lam, replacing the hostess in the first film, Rachel Chan. Her main role seems to be reactionary and, like Miss Chan in the original, she’s put in situations where she gets scared by things that never truly appear on camera. Meanwhile, the remaining crew looks on via video monitors from another location and Master Szeto gives a play-by-play of the “action” as if it were some kind of supernatural Super Bowl.

There are ten segments in all with some longer and others shorter. Of particular note, the first segment finds the crew at a temple in Bangkok, Thailand where 2000 fetuses were found in individual white bags. The crew is apparently helping with the disposal, but mostly comment on the smell. They are shown in only a few brief shots carrying a couple plastic bags without revealing any of the contents. This story it actually lent some credence by a 2010 news story, but it’s never explained onscreen how Master Szeto and crew just happened to be there and how they, as outsiders, were allowed to actually handle the “evidence”. If accurate, this timing also puts the actual production in 2010, four years ago, despite the 2012 production stamp and 2014 release date mentioned above.

The second segment features a corpse brothel where dead bodies are kept for the purposes of necrophilia. As to be expected, the segment features a few naked female bodies helping to garner the category III rating. Their actual “deadness” is called into question as the crew tries to explain various eye movements under the girls’ closed eyelids that get captured on camera.

Other “highlights” include stock footage of dead bodies being fished out of the Mekong River in the Golden Triangle area, a secret funeral ritual in Laos where the participants suddenly cut out organs of the deceased and engage in cannibalism, a deranged man’s attack on sleeping school children, and a subsequent haunting by a slain student. The one thing that all of these incidents bear in common is low resolution footage and angles where you never actually see anything clearly. This sort of thing might have worked back in the days of The Blair Witch Project, but in todays HD world, these techno-antics don’t even fly on television, let alone the big screen.

The longest segments are a spirit battle between holy relics, where an angry Thai shaman loudly chants at Rachel evoking “unseen spirits” that suddenly move her a few feet backwards, and the final segment which sees the crew follow an old man through a minefield as he looks for bones leftover from the Vietnam War. Despite being told to follow the old man closely (Because, duh, landmines!) one cameraperson somehow ends up far ahead of the whole team to take standard wide shots of the whole crew AND the old man on approach through this very same minefield. The crew then follows the man through a broken fence that is apparently the border to Cambodia and the segment ends with a reality TV-style moment that is simply ludicrous and has little to do with the supernatural.

In truth, I really do enjoy a good exploitation-style documentary when it’s actually spending some of its budget on research. While films like the Shocking Asia trilogy, The Supernormal I & II, or Under the Rose may be exploitative in nature, at least they can, in some small way, edify the audience. But with the Unbelievable series, we are not given nearly enough of those cultural moments and instead far too many moments of obvious “shenanigans” – and so much so that by the end the real unsolved mystery will be why you spent any time on the films at all. (Paul Fox, 3/2014)

  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen