Sťance is really good. The main thing holding it back is me being a prick who can’t let a segment of about ten minutes slide. The film rests on a string of incredible coincidences. A psychology student is working on the paranormal with a sound engineer whose wife is a psychic medium. The engineer needs to get a recording of some trees blowing in the wind, so he drives out to a remote forest. A kidnapper snatches up a little girl and drives her out to the same area of the same remote forest. The girl gets free when neither man is paying attention and manages to hide in the case where the sound engineer keeps some of his gear.
So far, I’m OK. Movies generally tell unusual stories plucked from billions of possibilities. Like, you don’t watch United 93 and say, “oh, of all the planes in the world, this just happens to be the one that gets hijacked as part of a major terrorist attack.” The point is, it’s the story of the plane that did get hijacked. So this is the one about the kidnapped girl whose abductor picked a hiding spot where there was a sound engineer and with a good equipment case to hide in and a psychic wife. Fine. The sound engineer doesn’t notice that his case is suddenly like sixty pounds heavier… I can look the other way on that. And when the police come to the very same engineer’s house to talk to his psychic wife about the very same little girl… well… that could happen, and the psychology student is supposed to somehow be the common link between all of these parties, but the coincidences begin to be distracting.
After the passing of what seems like about 24 hours, and an initial visit from desperate police, the couple finally discover the girl in the trunk. Though she looks OK, they assume she’s dead, freak out and predictably waiver about calling the police because this doesn’t look very good for them. The husband then moves the girl upstairs and only later discovers that, what must have been a warm, breathing body, is still alive. At this point, I was like “Oh, come on!” As good as virtually every other part of the movie was, once you’ve issued an “Oh, Come On!” it’s there.
The rest of the movie is based on the couple’s ambition and superstition biting them in the ass, causing them to be haunted and eventually arrested for murder. The basic storyline is pretty predictable, though in fairness, the film came out in 2000, so it was only the 475th Asian movie with a ghost girl. The beauty is in the execution, as the characters are well developed enough that the source of tension is our feeling from them, rather than wondering when some CGI cartoon is going to pop up. Fearing for the fate of characters we’ve come to know makes watching it unfold even more tense than a false highwire act. My teacher says this is called dramatic irony.
The scenes with ghosts are deliberately tame and even realistic, as far as scenes with ghosts go. In one instance, the girl emerges from the horizontally placed, 2001 homaging case only to walk up to the husband and leave her dirty hand prints as markers of guilt. Another time, the man is faced with his doppelganger, which just sits staring at him until he sets it on fire. All of this is done with a minimum of screaming and no totally x-treme camera work or ginsu editing. Instead, it is shot coldly and beautifully.