The Pang Brothers reunite with the star of The Eye for another imaginative horror…
After The Eye 10, the second sequel and a shameless cash-in to the series that helped make directors the Pang Brother’s name internationally, you might be hoping that it was a blip on their career, rather than a foreboding sign of what was to come. As that original film is about to see a Hollywood makeover (fancy that!), unfortunately for us their latest Re-Cycle is an imaginative fantasy horror full of potential (even if it doesn’t quite deliver).
Tsui Ting-Yin (Lee Sinje, The Eye, Koma) is a successful writer with three romantic novels under her belt. With fans eagerly anticipating her fourth novel, a supernatural thriller, the mounting pressure starts to inhibit her writing flow. Then odd things begin to happen; distorted noises on her phone, long hairs just like her fictional heroine – could she be trying to break into the real world?
As the incidents become stranger Ting-yin finds herself lost in another world, where all the discarded thoughts and ideas go, thrown out toys and forgotten relatives. She must find her way back into the real world, before the ‘Re-Cycle’, which destroys all in its path, catches up with her. The only way out is through a place called ‘The Transit’, so guided by young girl (Qiqi Zeng) she embarks on her journey – will she escape before it’s too late?
The theme of authors caught in their own fictional hell is not one that hasn’t been explored before, works by H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King spring to mind. Here the Pang brothers use it to open up a more imaginative realm with which to explore the senses. (Though arguably, if there’s any ‘Re-Cycling’ going on then they are more than doing their part with yet another spooky lift sequence!)
Desolate sprawling tower blocks, gigantic toys ruins, and a city of books are amongst their visions, though most involve the dead. The forest of the hung, with their necks stretched, graves of the forgotten and the bridge of the dead – as our heroine tries to hold her breath to make it to the other side (in a scene rather too reminiscent of Spirited Away).
All of which is visually quite impressive, with good-looking effects that don’t look too CGI manipulated. Considering their doubtless minuscule budgets quite a feat. However, it has nowhere near as much impact as the chilling first half, full of fleeting glimpses prompting you to ask, rather like the character of Ting-Yin herself, ‘did I just see what I thought I saw?’ The Pang’s once again prove themselves to be at the top of their game. There’s an impeccable way with which they craft their movies which brings to mind the cine-enthusiasts perfection of Spielberg or M.Night Shyamalan’s first movies. It’s a master class in frights that’s second to none.
Even the unexpected complete shift in tone – at least for those who don’t know the Pang’s previous work – is well managed, as the film turns from scary horror to the realms of fantasy. Previous Eye movies have all moved from horror to themes of affirmation in the last acts. However, for Re-Cycle it’s the Pang’s own recurring themes, particularly their opinions on abortion, that push the last act too far towards over-sentimental. It’s the heavy-handed, unsubtle way in which they make their point, as the character first travels through a tunnel of aborted foetus, then finds her guide is her own grown up aborted child.
But if the later part derails, this is still a very effective fantasy horror – it just might not be the movie that finally pushes them fully into the international spotlight once and for all!
Home media details
Distributor: Universe (Hong Kong)
The directors’ edition double disc digipak comes with two small books of sketches, photos and production designs. The feature disc itself is a high quality transfer, with several soundtrack options and a commentary including contributions from directors the Pang Brothers and star Lee Sinje, and for once it’s subtitled!
There’s also a host of extra features on the second disc, including Filmographies,
Photo Gallery, featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Highlights: Preview Show, Gala Premiere, Celebration Party, and Soundtracks. The subtitles themselves are not perfect – there are more than a few grammatical mistakes – but it’s such a welcome change to have them on at all.
This is one package that should be pretty attractive on an international market.