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Black Night

(left) Annie Liu and Race Wong, and (right) Asaka Seto freaks out.
Chinese: 黑夜  
Year: 2006
Director: Patrick Leung Pak-Kin, Takahiko Akiyama, Thanit Jitnukul
Cast: Annie Liu, Dylan Guo, Race Wong Yuen-Ling, Asaka Seto, Takashi Kashiwabara, Tomorowo Taguchi, Pichanart Sakakam, Kajonsak Ratananisai, Nutsha Bootsri, Athipan Chantapichai
  The Skinny: Not as good as Three. In fact, it's a whole lot worse. That's pretty much all the info you probably need.
by Kozo:

If it worked once, then they'll try it again — even if they're not the same guys who did it the first time. Black Night is a PanAsian production that falls in the very obvious footsteps of Three and Three...Extremes; the film consists of three separate horror tales helmed by three directors from three different Asian territories. The main difference is that the featured directors are less accomplished. There are no Fruit Chans, Peter Chans, Park Chan-Wooks or Takashi Miikes here. The three directors of Black Night have done some decent work before, but you'd be forgiven if you said "Who?" after hearing their names at your local cinephile wine and cheese gathering. Still, filmmaker fame should not be the primary deterrent when selecting a film for your viewing pleasure. Film quality, on the other hand, should get top consideration. That's where the problems for Black Night begin.

Director Patrick Leung (Task Force, Born Wild) starts things off with "Next Door", a fairly simplistic tale about one guy, two girls, a pair of handcuffs, and a pissed off ghost kid. Young rocker June (Annie Liu of Ah Soh) arrives back in HK after an extended leave to find her estranged boyfriend Joe (Taiwanese TV star Dylan Guo) involved with her next door neighbor Hosie (Race Wong). But something ain't quite right with Hosie. She's always dripping wet and belches water at the drop of a hat. Plus there's a naughty ghost kid hanging around, who likes to leave marbles in unfortunate locations, i.e. someone could slip on one and end up hurting themselves pretty damn bad. The result of these seemingly disconnected elements? Bad karma, and plenty of it.

"Next Door" is probably the best made of the three shorts, sporting excellent cinematography and production design, and a workable if not too-novel story. The big problem with "Next Door" is it does very little to unnerve besides a couple of shock scares, most of them involving a white-faced kid or Race Wong looking like she's about to catch pneumonia. The characters themselves are hardly worth caring about, as they're either possessive, duplicitous, or dead and seeking revenge - none of which are particularly sympathetic traits. The story has a few decent hooks, and the leads are certainly nice to look at it, but there's not much more beyond that. "Next Door" is okay for time-killing, but it's not scary and ultimately very forgettable.

Takahiko Akiyama's "Dark Hole" does "Next Door" one better. Besides having low scare factor and being very forgettable, "Dark Hole" is also astoundingly pointless. Asaka Seto (Bullets of Love) stars as Yuki, an aquarium employee who starts seeing a raincoat-wearing ghostly kid hanging around pointing at her. She also sees visions of her dead mom and ex-boyfriend, both of whom died rather suspiciously. Her current boyfriend (Takashi Kashiwabara) wants to help, but her analyst Dr. Kawai (Tomorowo Taguchi, in possibly the year's most boring performance) uses the power of psychobabble to explain that there may be more going on with Yuki than chronic jumpiness. Dr. Kawai posits that Yuki herself may be capable of rather dark deeds, but Yuki believes it may be something else.

Who's right about the string of murders surrounding Yuki? Director Akiyama reveals the answer in the most uninteresting way possible: through exposition. Dr. Kawai lays out everything via dialogue, with the only nonverbal revelation being that he's totally wrong about his diagnosis. The mystery of "Dark Hole" is screamingly obvious, and there is little suspense in the short's climax. Akiyama's use of dissolves, double-exposures, and jerky moving camera screams cheesiness, and the film's washed-out look makes it seem like crappy TV fodder from the seventies. Asaka Seto's character is shrill and downright insipid, and the male characters aren't much better in that they basically are begging to be offed. When the final shock cut happens, the horror that occurs may be the realization that "Next Door" is award-worthy when compared to "Dark Hole".

Yawning may also occur during the first half of the "The Lost Memory". Directed by Thanit Jitnukul (Bang Rajan), "The Lost Memory" tells the tale of a broken family that's about to get a lot more broken. Prang (Pichanart Sakakam) lost a portion of her memory after a terrible car accident, such that she can't remember why she's estranged from husband Wit (Kajonsak Ratananisai) and old female friend Praew (Nutsha Bootsri). She now lives alone with her son (Athipan Chantapichai), but the freak out begins when she starts getting paranoid. First she imagines that kidnappers are after her son, and then she imagines a dripping wet and green-skinned version of Praew hanging out in her family room. Prang seeks out the root of her problems and discovers that maybe the problem is a little closer to home, e.g. maybe it's living in her home. Or maybe she's just paranoid.

"The Lost Memory" features one decent reveal, but after that it's all downhill. Director Jitnukul attempts mystery with his horror short, but the mystery is mainly created by a disjointed narrative and images that only make sense after you've seen the whole film. There's some decent emotion in "The Lost Memory", and the themes presented certainly matter a lot more than those in the previous shorts. But they don't matter enough to make what happens more terrifying. In the end, bad things happen, and the likely reaction is, "Woohoo! I never liked any of those people anyway!" "The Lost Memory" is better than "Dark Hole", but that's like saying Steven Seagal is a better actor than Jean-Claude Van Damme. Basically, you're probably right, but nobody really cares.

In the end, the most intriguing thing about Black Night is that all three shorts have something to do with water. People die near water, in water (e.g. during rainstorms), or because of things in water. Furthermore, ghosts leave behind water, and people work near water. Occasionally, they even spit water. Maybe they should have called this film Black Water. But they didn't, and the consequence of that is...absolutely nothing! Seeing as how Asian horror is a crowded playing field, Black Night should probably be bumped from your viewing list in favor of actual good motion pictures. Or you could A-B repeat Leon Lai getting hit by a car in Three: Going Home for ninety-eight minutes instead. It would be time better spent. (Kozo 2006)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales Film and Video Distribution
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Multi-language Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen