ContactSales: Beijing Galloping Horse, Beijing (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 1 Feb 2013.
Presented by Yellapapa Pictures (CN), Northgod Film & Television (CN), Rosefinch Design (CN), Ziyi Advertisement (CN). Produced by Yellapapa Pictures (CN). Executive producers: Charlene Gao, Jiang Decai, Zhang Wenjie, Brian Gu. Producer: Qiu Chuji.
Script: Qiu Chuji, Xuanwu's Fish [Koni Lee, Tan Jinhua, An Yuxiang, Ma Yumeng]. Photography: Jeffrey Chu. Editing: Qiu Chuji, Han Feng. Music: Cincin Lee. Art direction: Guo Jiang. Costume design: Mao Te. Styling: Mao Te. Sound: Lou Yihan, Tu Duu-chih. Action: Li Lei. Visual effects: Ringo Lee (Legendtoonland).
Cast: Sandrine Pinna (Guan Wenxin), Ren Quan (Luo Jia), Lee Wei (Wu Guangming), Cui Jie (Dr. Dai, her father), Wendy Gao (Wendy, Annie's elder sister), Christa Yan (Dai Anni/Anne), Zhan Chuheng (Chunshan), Sun Jun (Hui), Liu Shengyue (Sheng), Xiao Xi (Sheng's mother), Zhuang Wenyan (fourth aunt), Li Wenlong (Mao), Wu Jing (real estate agent), Yella (little girl), Wang Shuai (photographer), Liang Jun (wedding MC), Huang Yinyan (old man), Han Li (old woman), Yu Kuai (middle-aged man), Yu Jingying (young Annie), Guo Yamei (grandmother), Lin Tao (fat man), Zhang Yue (foreign enterprise woman), Xia Jiashun (cool man), Yan Liping (middle-aged woman), Tao Jieting (young wife), Cai Beiyi (hairdressing salon manager), Zhu Jian (middle-aged boss), Xu Yaxiong (Wang).
The Chrysalis 女蛹之人皮嫁衣
2013, colour, 16:9, 98 mins
Directed by Qiu Chuji (邱處機)
By Derek Elley
Sat, 30 March 2013, 10:00 AM (HKT)
Intriguing but unfocused psycho-horror ranges from great to corny but remains watchable. Asian and genre events.
Shanghai, Valentine's Day, 14 Feb 2011. Hairdresser Guan Wenxin (Sandrine Pinna), 27, the illegitimate daughter of a French man and a Chinese woman, is kidnapped by her onetime best friend, rich girl Dai Anni (Christa Yan), immobilised with muscle relaxants, and held prisoner in a flat. Both had fallen for the same man, teacher Luo Jia (Ren Quan), while at university, and An-ni had lived with him for two years in the US; but after Luo Jia chose to propose to Wenxin, Anni has returned from the US to get her revenge. Anni tries to electrocute Wenxin in a bathtub but the latter escapes; during their subsequent fight, Wenxin is knocked unconscious. She wakes up, exactly three months later, on a road in the rain. After finding Luo Jia, she discovers the flat in which she was held prisoner - immediately opposite Luo Jia's - is now empty and Anni has disappeared. Anni's father (Cui Jie), the psychiatrist head of Puen Hospital, confirms he last got a message from his daughter on 14 Feb; after putting Wenxin through some tests, he confirms she has amnesia. Staying with Luo Jia, Wenxin keeps getting horrific visions. One day in the metro she meets Wu Guangming (Lee Wei), an artist who says he found her three months ago and let her live at his flat. Luo Jia then tells Wenxin that the body of Anni has been found in the sea near a greenhouse she owned outside the city; the body is badly decayed after being in the water for three months. The next day, at Anni's funeral, Wenxin suddenly seems to become possessed by her personality, saying she was pregnant by Luo Jia and Wenxin was responsible for the loss of her baby. Wenxin now starts to believe that Anni's ghost has taken over possession of her body.
A Mainland psycho-horror about a young woman who seems possessed by the ghost of her fiance's ex-lover, The Chrysalis 女蛹之人皮嫁衣 is an intriguing mixture of ideas and imagery that could have been much better if the direction had not been so over-heated. The film still has enough interesting elements — not least, Taiwanese-French indie queen Sandrine PINNA 張榕容 in her first genre outing — to be savoured as a wild ride by genre fans, plus a plot that develops into an incredibly complex tangle after the simplest of beginnings.
This first feature by Chengdu-born, Shanghai-based QIU Chuji 邱處機 (real name: Qiu Donghua 邱東華) if of interest simply for being produced by four Shanghai companies — including his own Yellapapa Pictures Co Ltd 上海青童文化傳播有限公司 — given the overwhelming domination of Beijing-based companies in Mainland production. One of China's top ad directors, Qiu, whose professional name is modelled after the real-life Daoist master recently portrayed in An End to Killing 止殺令 (2012), blends talent from the Mainland and Taiwan (via Chinese-American d.p. Jeffrey CHU 朱志剛, from Stand By Me 奮鬥 (2011) and Lovers in the Water 擺手舞之戀 (2011)) into a movie that continually veers from the inspired to the trashy while hardly pausing for breath inbetween. Marketed on release as the unlikely combination of a Valentine's Day film and a horror movie, it's much more the latter, with the accent firmly on psycho.
The film starts gangbusters, with the heroine tortured by her crazed, ex-best friend in a bathtub and wondering (in voice-over) how she came to be there. The plot then rapidly shifts gears into an amnesia movie as she wakes up three months later in the pouring rain and tries to reassemble the truth with the help of her fiance. Not the first time in a Chinese film, the main twist is partly given away by the original title's "handle", though it also involves an elaborate trick played on the audience. It's a challenging role for Pinna (hereto best known for artier Taiwan stuff like Candy Rain 花吃了那女孩 (2008), Yang Yang 陽陽 (2009) and Touch of the Light 逆光飛翔 (2012)) that plays on her own mixed-blood background but also pushes her into pure genre territory. Pinna throws herself into the part with abandon but, as usual for the unschooled actress, ends up with a performance that ranges the whole spectrum from effective to corny.
In that respect, Pinna reflects the movie as a whole, which is prodigal with its rich bag of ideas. At its best — as in the dark, horrific opening, or a poetic mid-section in a village — The Chrysalis is impressive; elsewhere, the restless, hand-held photography and fantastical plot work against any atmosphere-building in favour of over-cooked psycho-horror. Aside from Pinna, Mainland actor REN Quan 任泉 (Assembly 集結號 (2007), The Double Life Ａ面Ｂ面 (2009), Confucius 孔子 (2009)) largely marks time as the fiance; more charismatic is Taiwan actor-singer LEE Wei 李威 (Truth or Dare 真心話大冒險 (2011)) as a mysterious, handsome artist. Chinese-American Christa YAN 嚴千千 and Shanghai TV actress Wendy GAO 高蓓蓓 are briefly notable as the psycho-bitch and her elder sister.
A novelisation, authored by Qiu and writer Menga LEE 李悶, was published prior to the film's release, in Dec 2012.