ContactSales: Edko Films, Hong Kong ([email protected])
Theatrical release: Hong Kong, 8 Aug 2013.
Presented by Edko Films (HK), Movie Addict Productions (HK). Produced by Movie Addict Productions (HK). Executive producers: Bill Kong, Mathew Tang. Produced by Mathew Tang, Bill Kong.
Script: Gordon Chan (I), Mathew Tang (II), Lilian Lee (III). First-draft script: Chu Kit-ying (II), Alice Cheung (III), Ho Man-lung (III). Short stories: Lilian Lee (2008). Photography: Chan Chi-ying (I), Wade Muller (II), Jason Kwan (III). Editing: Chan Ki-hop (I), Lawrence "Ah Mon" Lau (II), Wenders Li (III). Music: Kawai Kenji. Production design: Yee Chung-man, Pater Wong. Art direction: ZoeLydia Lee, Jasper Tsang. Costume design: Shirley Chan. Sound: Dennis Chen (I, III), Amos Ho (II), Benny Chu, Ricky Yip. Action: Yick Tin-hung (III). Visual effects: Yung Kwok-yin (yinyung.co). Second unit direction: Chris Chow (III). Second unit photography: Ho Ka-fai (III).
Cast: I: Fala Chen (Chow Ching-yi), Gordon Lam (Yun Ho-hong, her husband), Tony Ho (Dr. Kwan), Joman Chiang (Mabel, Ching-yi's work colleague), Lam Chiu-wing (shopkeeper), Ian Yim (policeman), Crystal Black (policewoman). II: Chan Fat-kuk (Fatty Keung), Sham Ka-ki (Char-siu), Kiki Tam (Ceci), Pam Cheung (Princess), Ronny Yuen (Tat), Tong Kit-leung (C Hing), Wong Yat-ho (Sissy), Jacqueline Chan (Little Bo, Ceci's younger sister), Eric Leung (Lee, the former teacher), Lai Hon-chi (Chan, the old caretaker), Lam Suk-ching (headmaster), Chan Lai-ling (Fattie Keung's mother). III: Teddy Robin (Uncle Lau), Aliza Mo (Zhenni/Jenny), K.K. Cheung (minibus driver), Kelvin Kwan (druggie robber), Vincent Wan (Bo, Zhenni's landlord), Lana Wong (woman in red), Yick Tin-hung (Keung, Zhenni's pimp).
Tales from the Dark 2 李碧華鬼魅系列 奇幻夜
2013, colour, 2.35:1, 87 mins
Directed by Gordon Chan (I), Lawrence "Ah Mon" Lau (II), Teddy Robin (III)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 14 October 2013, 09:45 AM (HKT)
Two strong stories bookend a weak central one. Asian and genre events.
Hong Kong, the present day. I: Pillow (枕妖). A seemingly happy husband and wife, Yun Ho-hung (Gordon Lam) and Chow Ching-yi (Fala Chen), have a huge row one evening when he discovers she's been monitoring his text messages. A week later she tells her work colleague Mabel (Joman Chiang) that he's still missing after walking out on her. Unable to sleep, Ching-yi buys a special medicinal pillow which works wonders and provides her with a whole new fantasy life. II: Hide and Seek (迷藏). A group of teenagers, led by Fatty Keung (Chan Fat-kuk) and Char-siu (Sham Ka-ki), goes back to the old school from which they all graduated in 2003 and which is now due for demolition. There they meet the old caretaker, Chan (Lai Hon-chi), who warns them to leave before dark. Ignoring his warning, they play a game of ghostly hide-and-seek. III: Black Umbrella (黑傘). On the 15th night of the seventh month, the Ghost Festival, old Uncle Lau (Teddy Robin) takes a minibus to Mongkok, helping people along the way, including a woman crossing the road (Lana Wong) and a minibus driver (K.K. Cheung) who's held up by a druggie robber (Kelvin Kwan). Arriving in Mongkok, he helps a young Mainland prostitute, Zhenni (Aliza Mo), when she twists her ankle; but when they arrive back at her flat, circumstances change.
Released only four weeks after the first, this second batch of "horror" yarns adapted from short stories by prolific Hong Kong writer Lilian LEE 李碧華 (Rouge 胭脂扣 (1987), Farewell My Concubine 霸王別姬 (1993)) is less evenly balanced and 25 minutes shorter overall, but is bookended by two strong, characterful segments that make it worth watching. Like its predecessor, Tales from the Dark 2 李碧華鬼魅系列 奇幻夜 (2013) is made by an older generation of local names, with two, writer-director Lawrence "Ah Mon" LAU 劉國昌 and actor-singer-director Teddy Robin 泰迪羅賓, well into their 60s. Their episodes have a traditional, homegrown feel — in a positive way in Robin's case, in a negative way in Lau's — that's similar to Tales from the Dark 1 李碧華鬼魅系列 迷離夜 (2013). The most pleasant surprise is that the best-developed segment comes from Gordon CHAN 陳嘉上 (the "youngster" of the group, in his early 50s) whose feature films during the past decade or so have been very wobbly indeed.
Chan's Pillow, entirely set in clean, cool interiors beautifully caught by d.p. CHAN Chi-ying 陳志英 (Koma 救命 (2004), The Bullet Vanishes 消失的子彈 (2012)), goes way beyond the spirit world of the other stories in the series, with a very modern, sexually-charged dreaminess across its 36 minutes. Chan's script has a classic short-story structure, opening with a feint, following that with a couple of neat twists, and wrapping up the story as soon as it's run its course. The episode's Chinese title literally means Pillow Demon, following a young wife (China-born, US-raised TV actress Fala CHEN 陳法拉) whose "insomnia", following the disappearance of her husband, is cured in a very special way by a medicinal pillow. Less about ghostly superstition and more about sexual obsession, it benefits from Chan's uncharacteristically focused direction, Chen's convincingly bipolar performance and a sustained tension that falters only at the very end.
After that strong start, the quality level plummets with Lau's Hide and Seek, an utterly routine youngsters-in a-haunted-school story that has a retro '80s flavour (for no perceptible reason) and just about staggers across 26 minutes. The closer, Black Umbrella, directed by and starring veteran performer Teddy Robin, aka KWAN Wai-pang 關維鵬, is, like actor Simon YAM 任達華's segment in TFTD1, the only one with a script credited to Lee herself and puts the whole movie back on track, albeit briefly.
The shortest but most richly atmospheric of the three segments — with especially good night-streets photography by Jason KWAN 關智耀 — Umbrella is a miniature shaggy-dog story centred on an old man (Robin himself, in a wonderfully mellow performance) who goes round trying to do good turns to Kowloon's grumpy citizens during the mid-summer Ghost Festival. All goes kind-of okay until he meets a Mainland hooker (Aliza MO 莫綺雯, Due West: Our Sex Journey 一路向西 (2012)) with a bad case of homesickness. The segment packs in more character, atmosphere and explicit horror than the two previous episodes combined, but its brief 20 minutes give it a throwaway feel that's more suited to an opener than a closer.
The film's original title means Lilian Lee's Ghosts & Demons Series: Fantastic Nights. The source of the stories (and the film's Chinese title) is the first book in a five-volume, 2008 collection that gathers together ghost tales by Lee originally published in newspaper form.