Monday, January 27, 2014

Tales From the Dark 2 (2013) Chinese New Year 2014

You'll forgive me for placing this film with in the confines of a happy Chinese New Year celebration but I've been looking for a place to this sequel to Tales From the Dark (which I reviewed back in July when it World Premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival) for some time.  Actually the term sequel is wrong the wrong term since this film was conceived as a second part to that film and was released on a few weeks after the first.  Like the first film this is a trio of short films based upon the work of Lilian Lee. None of the films are related to any of the others (though I'm pretty sure some actors criss cross the films but in different roles)

The first film in this collection is Gordon Chen's  Pillow. It begins when a couple has a fight when the woman can't stand that her boyfriend is still connected to an ex-girlfriend. Separated from her lover the woman begins suffering from insomnia.  Told by her boss to change her pillow she buys a new one. The pillow brings on dreams of an intense sexual nature with her missing lover.

The second film is Laurence Lau's Hide and Seek, about a bunch of teens who decide to spend the night in their old school. While there they play a variation on the game of Hide and Seek called Master and Ghost that involves some people being human and others being ghosts. The trouble is some of the ghosts that haunt the school decide to make an appearance.

The final film is Teddy Robin's Black Umbrella. This film was actually scripted by Lilian Lee herself. The film follows Robin's mysterious man with an umbrella who runs across a prostitute during the Festival of the Dead.

This is a  lesser collection of  horror tales that still has moments of chills. The problem seems to be that these stories had to be told in a set amount of time and were trimmed (or at least thats how it feels).The film runs a sparse 90 minutes where the first film ran 114 minutes.

The best of the trio is probably The Pillow.  I say that more because that's the only one of the three films that doesn't really feel rushed or shortened. This isn't to say that the second and third films are bad, they aren't, its simply to say that they feel terribly rushed. The films have a certain pace that gets suddenly sped up in the closing minutes. Its as if they had to remain under 90 minutes and come hell or high water they were going to get there so they rushed things.

What the films have in spades is creepiness. There are shots of ghosts and possible ghosts in the second and third films that really set a mood. There is so much effort in these small moments that one really wishes that the films didn't feel like they were jumping to the end. To be perfectly honest both Hide and Seek and Black Umbrella are scarier and more freaky than The Pillow, especially in some of the ghost imagery and blood letting, they just kind of stumble at the end. (What would those films have been if allowed to flow organically?)

Is the film worth seeing. Yes definitely. When the films work, they are great. But when you see this film you have to be willing to go with the moments and not the whole. The moments really are special even if the whole isn't up to those levels. If you like horror the films are worth seeing. Personally if I was watching the two Tales From the Dark films together I would  watch this one first so you can end on the high note of the first collections.

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