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古宅心慌慌 (2003)
The Death Curse

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 10/07/2007

There are some obvious problems with “Death Curse” apart from that the credits give away a key plot twist—although a viewer paying attention (or even nodding off) will figure it out during the first meeting/introduction of the scattered Ting progeny. The “live” actors—or at least actors playing live people—are upstaged by the corpse of old man Ting. It is easier to believe that his rotting carcass can be preserved for 49 days while his children burn incense to his spirit than to accept some of the impersonations by the various Hong Kong pop idols that litter the cast. It is easy for the Twins—they simply play themselves, Gillian and Charlene having fun with a scary ghost story something their fans (a category in which I do not include myself) expect. Kenny Kwan and Steven Cheung, also billed as “Boyz” barely registered at all.

The centerpiece of the movie is a confrontation between Alex Fong on one side and everyone else on the other. It is quite dull and much too long, taxing the acting skills of most of the cast far beyond their abilities to deliver. The ineptitude of four actors locked in a cage pretending to assault a fifth was almost embarrassing. It wasn’t funny, they conveyed no sense of danger and there was really very little point to it. Fong has a poison that in a slightly more merciful world would have killed those who he used it on instead of making them even worse actors than they already were. Charlene and Gillian wield knives, get tied up and hung from hooks on the ceiling and act cute while in danger of being killed or at least dismembered.

The set design of “Death Curse” is wonderful—the spooky mansion where the Ting clan gathers is beautifully realized with great detail and some ingenious passages between rooms. Earlier scenes, in an apartment house hallway where Charlene abuses an admirer for reading her mail and right afterwards in a cafe where she takes all of his money, are designed very simply, the sparseness of the decor actually helping to speed things along with only the plot and exposition to think about. The cinematography is lush with a deep and rich palette highlighting the difference between the crumbling house and the surrounding jungle. There are a number of potentially scary things that get introduced early on—ghostly children, weird noises, someone who looks like a witch—but only one of them, the poisonous bees, shows up later in the film.

There are two not completely expected deaths but everything else is very much by the numbers.

This is a good movie for fans of the Twins but there isn’t much for anyone else.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 02/05/2006
Summary: Extremely Well Produced

Best described as a teenage horror comedy, here are some young pop singers making movies and trying to cash in at the box office. The film features Gillian Chung Yan-Tung and Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin from the girl group The Twins paired up with Steven Cheung Chi-Hang and Kenny Kwan Chi-Bun from the boy band The Boy'z to play siblings along with Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Raymond Wong Ho-Yin.

Although played for laughs, this movie has a somewhat dark and disturbing story. When a rich old man dies, he leaves a huge fortune to his eight children. This old boy was quite the player, all eight children are from 6 different wives, all from different countries. With his last will and testament, he brings them all together at his eerie mansion in the spooky Thailand countryside. Once they are together, all sorts of creepy things start to befall the group.

With the always wonderful Alex Fong to hold it together, the entire cast does nice work, especially young Raymond Wong. Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai plays Gillian's nosy, quirky neighbor who has a crush on her. New Wave horror director Cheang Pou-Soi creates some genuine spooky suspense from a screenplay that has holes in it so big you could drive a truck through them. You won't mind at all because all this is extremely well produced, beautifully edited, and wonderfully scored.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Mikestar*
Date: 12/29/2003
Summary: An Above Average Horror-Thriller

Featuring primarily as a vehicle for the 'Twins' crossover into the film market, "Death Curse" is a mixed and ambiguous film.

Despite showing some potential for success (largely in terms of artistic mood and style) as a horror/thriller "Death Curse" is required further attention.

The narrative is wholly disjointed and fragmented (not uncommon in the HK horror film), yet where it really falls down is at its laborious and unfulfilling conclusion. Not even the post-film outtakes can cover the fact that the film's conclusion is edgy and shaky.

Whilst the supporting performances within this film are noteworthy, Nick (Raymond Wong)& Keith (Lawrence Chou)in particular, the film rarely devaites form its focus on the 'Twins' themselves. Whereas Nancy's character (the hard-luck, emotionally stunted orphan) is somehwat vivid and likeable (despite her Faye Wong-esque manner), her counterpart Linda (a Thai girl with psychic tendencies) is poorly presented. Despite portraying a range of emotions throughout the film (including grief, fear, anger) her character appears wholly unstable throughout, fluctuating between these stages at strange times. Whether this is related to Chung's acting style or the production team's guidance appears indeterminate.

Despite the potential for originality at points, the films remains ultimately bound to convention (not suprising when considering the commercial and mainstream value of its stars). Much like the presence of the 'Twins' themselves within the HK film insutray, 'Death Curse' remains a film of unfulfilled potential, showing glimpses of depth but ultimately unsatisfying.