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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Sean Kelly

Reel Asian 2013: My Thoughts on Tales from the Dark Part 1

Tales_from_the_Dark

Adapted from the series of horror novels by Lilian Lee, Tales from the Dark Part 1 is a horror anthology film, which tells three Hong Kong-set ghost stories.  The connecting thread in each of these stories is that ghosts in the tales are seeking retribution for something that happened to them in life, or death.  The segments are directed by Fruit Chan, Chi-Ngai Lee, and, Hong Kong superstar, Simon Yam, in his directorial debut.  Now, I shall go through each of the segments individually, before giving my final opinions at the end.

Segment 1: Stolen Goods
Directed By: Simon Yam

Simon Yam’s directorial debut has Yam playing a down-on-his-luck man, who constantly finds himself fired from his various odd jobs.  He also happens to be followed by the ghost of a girl, who hangs around his apartment.  Afraid that he won’t be able to pay his rent, the man resorts to stealing urns from a mausoleum and leaving ransom notes.  When one of the notes his answered, the man quickly learns that he shouldn’t mess with the dead.

In this segment, Simon Yam is using a ghost story to give a message about how difficult it is for the poor to live in today’s Hong Kong, especially if you’re dead.  The opening scene of Stolen Goods shows a scene in the afterlife, where the struggle between the rich and poor is still going on, with the most striking image being a fat ghost, who gorges himself not-stop, while repeatedly saying “I’m full” (a metaphor for the rich not being content with what they got).

This was probably the most atmospheric of the three segments and it even gets creepy is some places (with one good jump scare).  At one point, the man says that living in poverty is more scary than being haunted by ghosts, though he is quickly put to the test on that assessment. 

Overall, this was a fine directorial debut for Simon Yam and a good way to kick off this horror anthology.
8 | LIKED IT

Segment 2: A Word in the Palm
Directed By: Chi-Ngai Lee

This segment follows a fortune teller named Ho (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who is sick of seeing ghosts all the time and wants to retire and spend time with this family, completely unlike his overeager protégé Lan.  On his final day, Ho is confronted by the ghost of a drowned girl, who wants revenge against the man, who drove her to kill herself.  Ho and Lan set out to put the ghost to rest, all before Ho has to meet his family for dinner.

A Word in the Palm is played much more for laughs than scares, which is driven by the great chemistry between Ho and Lan, with Ho more concerned with his retirement and Lan very eager to exorcise the ghost.  Despite the more light-hearted tone, the ghost itself still get quite creepy, especially as bloody water pours from her eyes.

Overall, this was more definitely the most fun of the three and it was a blast to watch how difficult Ho’s final day as a fortune teller turns out to be.
 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Segment 3: Jing Zhe
Directed By: Fruit Chan

This segment follows an old woman named Chu, who performs the ancient practice of “villain hitting” for paying customers.  This ritual involves beating a card, in order to place a curse on whomever the customer dislikes.  At the end of the night, Chu is confronted by the ghost of a women, whose murder Chu witnessed, who will be her last order.

Without a doubt, Jing Zhe is the darkest of the three segments, which is probably why it was saved for last.  The short began a bit on the humorous side, but quickly got more serious once the ghost arrived.  However, the dark humour remains throughout the segment, especially in the gory ways the ghost’s revenge in enacted.

This was definitely good way to conclude this Tales from the Dark.
8 | LIKED IT

Overall, while I didn’t find Tales from the Dark Part 1 to be particularly scary, it was still a very atmospheric and darkly humorous horror anthology, which I quite enjoyed.

Overall: 8 | LIKED IT

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).