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一樓一鬼 (2007)
House of the Invisibles

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 03/17/2009

“House of the Invisibles” begins, one thinks, as it plans to go on with a murder/suicide. A woman is smothered while lying on a couch then her killer hangs himself using the ceiling fan and a loop of wire—and this is before the credits. The body count doesn’t get much higher though, since most of whom we encounter as the movie unspools are ghosts, stuck in this life, dead but unable to move on to the next. Some of the ghosts appear in the guise of loved ones, others appear and disappear while a few of them seem to be permanently anchored to their earthly bodies.

There are a few startling rather than scary moments, some mystery about which of the characters are ghosts and funny moments that were probably a lot funnier in the original Cantonese. Some of the humor transcends language, for example when one of the ghosts uses a pan to knock out a person but it seems that much of it was lost to our gweilo ears. Subtitles are only marginally helpful in the best of cases when puns and jokes are translated but the ones accompanying this release were bad enough be confusing themselves.

Wayne Lai was good as Bug, a well written role. He was a gambling addict who always lost and was so hooked on winning that when he was offered all the winners of a soccer pool in return for his body so that a ghost could leave this realm he went along with it. He was both funny and pathetic as he tried to solve this Faustian dilemma, hoping to use the advance information but still hang on to his body. To the movie’s detriment Bug wound up completely bathetic at the end, giving up without a fight for a reason that was introduced with no warning.

Natalie Ng played a sexy prostitute while Lam Suet’s grotesque looks were emphasized—the mole on the right side of his jaw was so prominent it could have had its own billing. They made an extremely unlikely couple. Even though he consorted with a prostitute there was never a question of Fatty Chow’s complete dedication to his wheelchair bound wife. It was a different story with Eddie Pang as Bo, costumed for some reason in really hideous baggie shorts, who couldn’t recall people he loved even when they appeared to him from beyond this life. Teresa Ha Ping was just about perfect as the janitor who was always around the house and who connected everyone’s story.

“House of the Invisibles” isn’t really a horror movie. With one notable exception none of the shocking, heart in the mouth scenes work very well, usually because they are the stock, off the horror/slasher movie shelf that take too long to develop and are hinted at much too broadly in the set up. For example Bug approaches another character, one we know is a ghost; we also know that when the person turns around she will not be what Bug expects. This is a commonplace scene, so much so that we expect to see it. But it can still cause a fright in the audience if it is done with the proper timing and setting and if it is sold by the actors. In this case Bug took so long to approach the character that there was no edge at all—my wife and I were sufficiently uninvolved to speculate what the surprise would be when the character turned around. To no one’s surprise, it was the half-melted face trope.

Not much of a ghost movie but probably much better as a comedy than we could figure out.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 10/01/2008
Summary: haunted house comedy

Like the hot pot restaurant used as one of its central locations, Elfa Lee’s 2007 Lunar New Year feature House of The Invisibles is great fun, serving up more laughs than scares. Co-workers at the local eatery, Gigi and Chow are the last remaining tenants in an old apartment building being closed down for some reason. They share their apartments with a bunch of ghosts who are unable to leave the building, trapped in that tricky Taoist purgatory that seems to have many different rules about gaining a happy afterlife.

Lam Suet plays Fatty Chow who is living with his sickly, wheelchair bound wife. With her help, he carries on with hookers to satisfy the needs she can no longer serve. Lam is alternately funny, in his scenes with co-worker Wayne Lai who does his usual comedy shtick, and creepy, in his scenes with his troubled wife and his eager-to-please surrogate. Lovely Leila Tong plays Gigi who lives with her pot-smoking slacker boyfriend who has some issues from his past that haunt him. Lai has a gambling problem and gets involved with some ghosts who love football [soccer] and mahjong. Being a fan of these actors makes this film easy for me to enjoy. The legendary Theresa Ha Ping does a nice job as the spooky charwoman.

Reviewer Score: 7