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Night Corridor
"I may never live down The Peeping."

Coco Chiang and Daniel Wu inhabit the Night Corridor.
Year: 2003  
Director: Julian Lee Chi-Chiu  
Writer: Julian Lee Chi-Chiu (from his own novel)  
Producer: Daniel Wu, Stanley Kwan Kam-Pang
Cast: Daniel Wu, Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Guk Fung, Eddy Ko Hung, Coco Chiang Yi, Allen Wu
The Skinny: Artistic aspirations don't save this valiant attempt at high class horror. Decent atmosphere and a mysterious story hold interest, but the lack of resolution only muddles things. Despite the abundance of sordid detail, Night Corridor doesn't add up to more than a minor curiosity.
by Kozo:
     Art alert! Director Julian Lee's Night Corridor premiered at this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival, and certainly has the pedigree of a festival attendee. The film is based on Lee's own novel, and features metaphorical exposition, painterly detail, and enough sordid stuff to get your blood pumping. It also features a stand-in for the Devil Incarnate, some creepy shenanigans involving twins, a planned devil spawn, and more hidden revelations than any film has a right to. All the above could be looked upon as a validation of the film's artistic aspirations, i.e. this is a film which means stunningly more than its plot and genre classifications would allow. Or, the film could simply be a collection of disturbing details and repressed social issues which tries to mean more than its genre, but doesn't. Call me a philistine, but I skew towards the latter interpretation.
     Rock-solid Daniel Wu stars as Sam Yuen, an art photographer who's just getting his first exhibition in the United Kingdom. However, on the day of his big break, he receives some shocking news: his twin brother Hung (also played by Wu) has been hospitalized, and Sam can either return to Hong Kong or not. Sam does, but he's clearly torn at returning, and when he gets there we find out why. Not only is his mother (Kara Hui) a bitter souse married to a rude foreigner, but she's consorting with Father Chan (Eddy Ko), the Catholic priest who raised Sam as a child. Sam has been upset at Father Chan for "screwing him up," which is a nice way of saying that Chan spent A LOT of time with the young boy. However, said activities the two shared did not necessarily involve the teaching of religious faith, or some pseudo father-son chats on the ways of the world. If you can't figure out what that means, then you should catch up on current events.
     Sam discovers that Father Chan and his mother are keeping a secret from him. That secret is shocking and bizarre, and could change your entire opinion of the movie. Here it comes (SPOILER AHOY!): Hung was not involved in an accident and hospitalized; he was actually attacked and killed by WILD MONKEYS. Who saw that coming? Not Sam, that's for sure, and the deeping mystery of how his brother got eviserated by ROGUE MONKEYS begins to consume him. It also leads him to a open-all-night library run by the kindly Mr. Luk (Guk Fung), and a rendezvous with a mysterious girl (model Coco Chiang) who simply wants to jump his bones. The reasons why are murky at best, but somebody wants Sam and the girl to get it on, which seems to indicate some strange, arcane string-pulling by people whose powers cannot be understood by mere mortals. There are dark forces at work, and for some reason they choose to victimize poor Sam Yuen, who aside from losing his brother to DEADLY MONKEYS, must come to terms with the sordid details of his childhood and inner beasts. If this sounds compelling, raise your hands.
     Knocking Night Corridor for its murky story is easy, but problematic. On one hand, it would be easy to dismiss Julian Lee's pseudo-satanic musings as wannabe Rosemary's Baby-type stuff, and to heap it into a pile with other failed horror experiments like every Ring clone since The Ring. On the other hand, Lee takes great care to give his story artistic credibility, and by that we mean he directly connects his odd details (i.e., the EVIL MONKEYS) to the work of Swiss painter Henry Fuseli (1741-1825). Fuseli's painting, "The Nightmare", gets ample screen time and is meant to elucidate some of the film's more mysterious detail, but meaning and success are two different things. If connecting film detail to a respected piece of art equals a cinematic triumph, then Night Corridor earns its wings. But personally, that's not enough for me.
     What weighs down Night Corridor is not its flirtation with satanic existence (via the proverbial "devil's bargain"), but its overwhelming amount of detail, much of which is unexplained or seems to be around simply to get a rise out of the audience. Sam Yuen is haunted by the death of his brother, and by his past with Father Chan, but there's more. There's also repressed homosexuality, which takes form in Sam's graphic desire for former childhood friend Vincent Sze (Allen Wu), and an Oedipal complex with his mother that doesn't really go anywhere. Sam's return to Hong Kong comes with a disturbing psychological burden, and Sam slowly (actually quickly; the movie clocks in at under eighty minutes) erodes. He becomes given to violence and just plain irrationality, and his journey proves more alienating than anything else. His problems are certainly an eyeful, but they don't do much more than say, "Wow, this guy is messed up." Despite the legitimate human issues at stake, nothing about Sam's problems makes him seem remotely human. He just seems wacked-out, which is not the recipe for compelling cinema.
     At the very least, atmosphere gets Night Corridor some points. Julian Lee tells his story with effective fades and flashbacks, and the deeping mystery is sure to hook some. On the other hand, that mystery really solves nothing. People die, blood spills, and things generally go sour. What it all means is a good question, and the journey itself doesn't really prove rewarding enough to let the lack of closure slide. In the end, it seems the greatest credit Night Corridor can be given is that it tries. Daniel Wu (who also co-produced) tried to stretch his acting muscles and take risks. Director Julian Lee tried to make something thoughtful and accomplished, and not rushed and overly commercial. By that token, the least the audience could do is try to find the good points of this cinematic experiment—though I hope you have better luck than I did. I managed to stick around for the full eighty minutes, and was ultimately intrigued but not fulfilled, which does not equal any sort of ringing endorsement. I don't think that Night Corridor is a terrible film, but I also don't find it to be a successful one. (Kozo 2003)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Asia Video
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
image courtesy of Asia Video Publishing Co. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen