If it worked once,
then they'll try it again — even if they're not the
same guys who did it the first time. Black Night
is a PanAsian production that falls in the very obvious
footsteps of Three and Three...Extremes;
the film consists of three separate horror tales helmed
by three directors from three different Asian territories.
The main difference is that the featured directors
are less accomplished. There are no Fruit Chans, Peter
Chans, Park Chan-Wooks or Takashi Miikes here. The
three directors of Black Night have done some
decent work before, but you'd be forgiven if you said
"Who?" after hearing their names at your
local cinephile wine and cheese gathering. Still,
filmmaker fame should not be the primary deterrent
when selecting a film for your viewing pleasure. Film
quality, on the other hand, should get top consideration.
That's where the problems for Black Night begin.
Director Patrick Leung
(Task Force, Born Wild) starts things
off with "Next Door", a fairly simplistic
tale about one guy, two girls, a pair of handcuffs,
and a pissed off ghost kid. Young rocker June (Annie
Liu of Ah Soh) arrives back in HK after an
extended leave to find her estranged boyfriend Joe
(Taiwanese TV star Dylan Guo) involved with her next
door neighbor Hosie (Race Wong). But something ain't
quite right with Hosie. She's always dripping wet
and belches water at the drop of a hat. Plus there's
a naughty ghost kid hanging around, who likes to leave
marbles in unfortunate locations, i.e. someone could
slip on one and end up hurting themselves pretty damn
bad. The result of these seemingly disconnected elements?
Bad karma, and plenty of it.
is probably the best made of the three shorts, sporting
excellent cinematography and production design, and
a workable if not too-novel story. The big problem
with "Next Door" is it does very little
to unnerve besides a couple of shock scares, most
of them involving a white-faced kid or Race Wong looking
like she's about to catch pneumonia. The characters
themselves are hardly worth caring about, as they're
either possessive, duplicitous, or dead and seeking
revenge - none of which are particularly sympathetic
traits. The story has a few decent hooks, and the
leads are certainly nice to look at it, but there's
not much more beyond that. "Next Door" is
okay for time-killing, but it's not scary and ultimately
Takahiko Akiyama's "Dark
Hole" does "Next Door" one better.
Besides having low scare factor and being very forgettable,
"Dark Hole" is also astoundingly pointless.
Asaka Seto (Bullets of Love) stars as Yuki,
an aquarium employee who starts seeing a raincoat-wearing
ghostly kid hanging around pointing at her. She also
sees visions of her dead mom and ex-boyfriend, both
of whom died rather suspiciously. Her current boyfriend
(Takashi Kashiwabara) wants to help, but her analyst
Dr. Kawai (Tomorowo
Taguchi, in possibly the year's most boring performance)
uses the power of psychobabble to explain that there
may be more going on with Yuki than chronic jumpiness.
Dr. Kawai posits that Yuki herself may be capable
of rather dark deeds, but Yuki believes it may be
Who's right about the
string of murders surrounding Yuki? Director Akiyama
reveals the answer in the most uninteresting way possible:
through exposition. Dr. Kawai lays out everything
via dialogue, with the only nonverbal revelation being
that he's totally wrong about his diagnosis. The mystery
of "Dark Hole" is screamingly obvious, and
there is little suspense in the short's climax. Akiyama's
use of dissolves, double-exposures, and jerky moving
camera screams cheesiness, and the film's washed-out
look makes it seem like crappy TV fodder from the
seventies. Asaka Seto's character is shrill and downright
insipid, and the male characters aren't much better
in that they basically are begging to be offed. When
the final shock cut happens, the horror that occurs
may be the realization that "Next Door"
is award-worthy when compared to "Dark Hole".
Yawning may also occur
during the first half of the "The Lost Memory".
Directed by Thanit Jitnukul (Bang Rajan), "The Lost Memory" tells
the tale of a broken family that's about to get a
lot more broken. Prang (Pichanart
Sakakam) lost a portion of her memory after
a terrible car accident, such that she can't remember
why she's estranged from husband Wit (Kajonsak
Ratananisai) and old female friend Praew (Nutsha Bootsri).
She now lives alone with her son (Athipan Chantapichai),
but the freak out begins when she starts getting paranoid.
First she imagines that kidnappers are after her son,
and then she imagines a dripping wet and green-skinned
version of Praew hanging out in her family room. Prang
seeks out the root of her problems and discovers that
maybe the problem is a little closer to home, e.g.
maybe it's living in her home. Or maybe she's just
"The Lost Memory"
features one decent reveal, but after that it's all
downhill. Director Jitnukul attempts mystery with
his horror short, but the mystery is mainly created
by a disjointed narrative and images that only make
sense after you've seen the whole film. There's some
decent emotion in "The Lost Memory", and
the themes presented certainly matter a lot more than
those in the previous shorts. But they don't matter
enough to make what happens more terrifying. In the
end, bad things happen, and the likely reaction is,
"Woohoo! I never liked any of those people anyway!"
"The Lost Memory" is better than "Dark
Hole", but that's like saying Steven Seagal is
a better actor than Jean-Claude Van Damme. Basically,
you're probably right, but nobody really cares.
In the end, the most
intriguing thing about Black Night is that
all three shorts have something to do with water.
People die near water, in water (e.g. during rainstorms),
or because of things in water. Furthermore, ghosts
leave behind water, and people work near water. Occasionally,
they even spit water. Maybe they should have called
this film Black Water. But they didn't, and
the consequence of that is...absolutely nothing! Seeing
as how Asian horror is a crowded playing field, Black
Night should probably be bumped from your viewing
list in favor of actual good motion pictures. Or you
could A-B repeat Leon Lai getting hit by a car in Three: Going Home for ninety-eight minutes
instead. It would be time better spent. (Kozo 2006)