"This scary movie is in a class of its own."
Pronouncing The Title
Gin Gwai (Cantonese)
Jian Gwei (Mandarin)
Seeing Ghosts (Direct translation to English)
Directed by Danny and Oxide Pang
Produced by Peter Chan Ho-sun and Lawrence Cheng Tan-shui
Written by The Pang Brothers, Jo Jo Hui Yuet Chun
Cinematography by Decha Srimantra
Art Direction by Simon So, Kritapas Suttinet
Angelica Lee- Man
Lawrence Chow- Wah
So Yut Lai
Ko, Yin Ping
Chutcha Rujihanon - Ling
Pierre Png - Dr Eak
Wang Sue Yuen
Man (Angelica Lee), a strong but gentle young woman has been blind since she was 2. Yet she has never felt sorry for herself and is loved by her grandmother and protected fiercely by her elder sister (Candy Lo). One day she receives a gift from an unknown donor, a cornea transplant in which she is given the chance to see again. From the moment she first opens her eyes to a blurry world, to the day she is able to see clearly, she realises her returning sight also comes with something she never bargained for - she realises she is able to see restless ghosts and spirits who in turn know she is able to see them too. Paralysed with fear and feeling ever more helpless, she retreats back to her own "blind" state, refusing to walk out of her room, until Wah, her physiotherapist doctor who is in love with her seeks to find the truth of her third eye, the eye which sees many things science nor logic is able to explain. This leads them to Thailand and to a shocking truth that could kill Man or liberate her from her pain.
It's very rare for me to pay to see a Chinese movie in a movie theatre except for a Stephen Chow or a Jackie Chan movie. It has to be either extremely funny or extremely entertaining with action packed sequences. But I went to the cinema to watch this movie after reading glowing reviews in my local newspaper, which was a rare accolade given to a Chinese movie made anywhere in the world other than China and by Ang Lee. Since there was our own Malaysian girl, Angelica Lee Sin-Je, in the movie (where her performance in Sunshine Cops did nothing to impress me), I thought a good scary movie should be quite alright. Nothing can screw up a scary movie unless it's a scary movie that doesn't scare me. This scary movie is in a class of its own.
Whilst every single frame would remind you of Sixth Sense, after the entire length of the movie I began to see Sixth Sense as a rather entertaining spooky movie with a very white washed content, which basically means it tells a story but not the entire story. The Eye would in effect explain to us why having the ability to see ghosts and predict death is actually a curse and not a gift like Sixth Sense would like you to believe. It ain't cool to be able to see dead people floating in front of you, screaming at you.
In the Sixth Sense we have docile ghosts who mainly have unfinished business. In this movie we have angry ghosts, hungry ghosts, pitiful ghosts who could not leave this world if they could not realise their unfinished business. The beauty of this movie and the story is that it is told completely from the viewpoint of Man, a girl who could not see and when she could she'd rather she was blind. Whilst this movie offers twists after twists, turns after turns, new plots after another, it was never tiresome and in the end all lose ends were tied up neatly with one neat conclusion: "Ignorance IS Bliss". But that's not the entire message of this movie.
When Man began to see strange images, like an old lady being led away by a dark figure, or an old woman in a hospital screaming she was cold and floating towards her menacingly and then disappearing into thin air, or a lost little boy looking for his report card, you will realise there are many ghosts in this world - most are quite pitiful and also very lost, and thus angry.
One of the saddest scenes would be the little boy who lost his report card, told his parents who did not believe him and rather than being reprimanded by his parents, jumped off the building thus killing himself and leaving his parents grieving. Man who had just received the transplant saw this little boy always asking, "Did you see my report card" in front of her house not realising that he was ghost. Her grandmother knew and quietly sought the help of a Taoist master to help the boy with his wish without alarming Man. And then Man began to see more things; like a young boy running on the street and passing through her body and then she saw his dead body on the street having been struck by a car minutes earlier; a student demanding Man giving her her sit back; a woman carrying her baby eating at a char siew shop where she was told the owner did not want to sell the shop because he hoped to see his wife and child who had just died, again without realising they were ghosts, and many many more. Whilst she was helped by a young idealistic doctor who was smitten by her at first sight that was Wah (a love story which basically did not begin properly but ended in a promising note), she was beginning to grow deeper into depression, especially after one horrifying experience with the ghost of an old man in an empty elevator, the highlight of this movie. Believe me, you will be scared out of your wits watching that scene.
But all these were to build the story to an eventual but not the final climax; where Man will realise being able to see dead people wasn't so bad when she had an opportunity to say good bye to someone she cared about, she was beginning to feel normal again until she saw her picture with the little girl who had just died. She couldn't recognise her face and then we are given a new twist in the plot, which leads us, the viewers, to Thailand and to the truth about the cornea she received and a girl named Ling, who had killed herself. Why did this girl kill herself, we wonder? Why was Man seeing someone else in the mirror instead of her own reflection in one scary scene, the moment of realisation for Man?
Ling was a girl blessed with such a curse. She could see dark figures looming before a person dies, and when she tried to warn people, the villagers saw her as a bad omen. She grew up rejected and taunted by society, as told by one Dr Eak who knew her. But Ling's mother protected her with her genuine love for her daughter. One day though, something happened that broke Ling's spirit and she gave up on living altogether. But her soul could not rest and each night she repeated her suicide ritual and Man knew about this in her dreams and through Ling's eyes. Why couldnt she rest since suicide was her own choice? Ling's mother was a big reason in the soul's unrest and because of her mother, Ling could never rest in peace and thus so too our Man.
But when that was overcome, we are presented with the ultimate climax.
Whilst everything was quite rosy for Man who was in a bus on her way to the airport presumably somewhere in Thailand, she was stuck in a traffic jam. We would know what was causing the traffic jam and through Man's eyes we would know what would eventually happen in a really atmospheric and terrifying scene, when Man saw hundreds of dark figures, those that would guide the spirits to the next world standing ready by each occupant in the cars and on the street. In one really good scene where as Man we could feel Ling's anguish (as the director spliced together Ling's reason for her suicide and Man's moment of realisation of the curse of her gift) where Man ran frantically trying to warn the people of the impending doom, we could feel Ling's helplessness and perhaps we could understand why she killed herself. Being able to see death in the face may be something some may wish they could do but the greatest frustration would be in trying to warn people of what their fate would be, what you can't avoid is something of a curse. Man was lucky because she had a man who stood by her, and because she no longer needed the eye at the end of the story. But it will get you thinking; even if you could help ghosts with their unfinished business, even if you could tell everybody to avoid a certain path or a certain road and yet nobody listens and sees you as a raving lunatic, seeing death and not being able to help defeat it, in the end my conclusion is ignorance is bliss. Not knowing is far better than knowing much too much.
This movie presents all the stark realities of such a "curse", of human vulnerabilities and some insights to what it would mean to be able to see beyond what we are supposed to see.
If you want to be scared out of your wits, and if you want a movie which makes you cry and a movie which makes you think, this is one movie that comes highly recommended by me. Just don't watch it alone in an empty house. I wouldn't want another casualty to heart attack added to my conscience.
Question Asked And Answered
Q : "How come Man could see dead people?"
A : "Because Ling could see dead people and Man now has Ling's eyes".
Q : "I thought this movie looked like Sixth Sense"
A : "On the surface yes, but deeper no. Sixth Sense deals with a boy who sees dead people. This movie deals with a woman who could see death coming as well as dead people, which is far scarier in my opinion. Therefore, I would conclude this movie is far more deeper in its context, far richer in its story and far more scarier in its end product than Sixth Sense which was and still is an excellent movie by the way."
Q : :"Do you believe in ghosts Funn?"
A : "I believe in the existence of God, therefore I will not disbelieve in the idea of souls and spirits. I also believe every thing, dead or alive has a place of their own in the order of things and so I believe that life doesn't end with death, and I will not be able to confirm this until at the end of my natural life and I still can't confirm that to you unless you have Man/Ling's abilities to see me when that time comes, and I am sure you wouldn't want a visit by me. By the way, touch wood, I am still young and I have decades and decades more of smart aleck comments to make."
Plot / Story : **** 1/2
Direction : **** 1/2
(Excellent direction by the Thai duo, very atmospheric and very scary)
Cinematography : ****
(Blue, quite depressing but very effective)
Music : ***
(Not much music but lots of sound effects, too loud sometimes but adds to the scare factor)
Performances : Overall **** 1/2
Everybody did quite well in here except for Lawrence Chow who basically had little to do in here though it is refreshing to see a good looking young actor in a role of an idealistic person who through the power of love would believe anything I guess, even in ghosts even if he was a man of science.
Excellent performance by Angelica Lee who gave a powerful and moving performance of a girl numbed with fear and yet had the courage to face it in the face when she could no longer hide. Her Cantonese is a bit off and her playing the violin would need some brushing up, but certainly Sunshine Cops was a movie that did no justice to what she is capable of. And she is a Malaysian!
I am not sure what is the name of the woman who played Ling's mother, the Thai actress but she was excellent in this movie who even with all her love for her daughter she could not forgive her daughter for killing herself. Very moving scene when Ling's spirit was begging her mom for forgiveness and the lady tearfully and stubbornly said "I never gave up on you, but you gave up on me, I'll never forgive you". I cried watching that scene.
Candy Lo had nothing to do in here though she was effective as the protective sister of Angelica Lee's Man.
Overall, I find the performances in this movie above average and highly refreshing, especially the little girl who played the cancer stricken young girl who befriended Man as well as many ke-le-fes who played ghosts. The young boy who lost his report card was quite good too.
Don't miss this movie. You can't find one better than this.
Most Memorable Scene
I don't think after watching that elevator scene would anyone step into an empty elevator for quite some time. Scary, spooky and terrifying all at the same time, Angelica Lee gave a very "scared" performance and the old man who played the floating ghost who was moving ever closely towards Angelica who was counting the number of floors to go (1....2...up until 15th floor), I am sure you will be screaming, "Come on darn elevator, FASTERRRRR". It was really scary.
Most Interesting Fact
Pierre Ping, I think played Dr Eak and also plays the younger brother in Phua Chu Kang (Singapore) recently donated half his liver to his actress girlfriend who was dying of liver failure thanks to the slimming pills, Slim 10, which has already claimed one victim. His one act of love became the love story of the year in Singapore and many other regions. Quite romantic actually but on a serious note, his girlfriend was slim and pretty yet bowed to pressure of the entertainment business and took this dangerous pill which was surprisingly sold over the counter in Singapore without being tested for side effects. I do believe smoking, another way to slim down the dangerous way, may kill you but at least it would take decades. Slim 10 takes about 3 months to manifest itself into liver failure and eventually death happens within a week thereafter. Please, being fat isn't that bad. At least you might actually live longer to taste another Char Siew bun or something. Being someone of an above average weight, I sometimes can't understand why pretty girls like Cecilia Cheung would diet until looking like a skeleton. HK media may be too dumb to differentiate between slim and thin, rod thin and dangerously too thin, but you as an intelligent being should understand when you begin to tire easily even when you're 110 pounds, something seriously is wrong with you. Please eat, if you can't eat, try coming to Malaysia. We will fatten you up with our roti canais, nasi lemaks, bak kut tehs. Slim may be in, but what's the point in being slim when you're dead? Maybe we should sue dress manufacturers for making dresses of XXL size the same size as M. Life is too precious to waste it away on the obsession of being slim. Be healthy, stay healthy and live healthy. Thank you for reading this and my condolences to the families who lost their loved ones through Slim 10s and many more useless products manufactured by cold blooded manufacturers.