Wouldn't catching criminals
be a lot easier if cops could communicate with the killer's
dead victims? That's the premise behind Nightmares in
Precinct 7, a supernatural mystery flick from director
Herman Yau. Fong Jing (Andy Hui) is an accomplished but
arrogant policeman in Hong Kong's Serious Crime Investigation
Bureau who seemingly has it all: a rewarding job, a beautiful
girlfriend, a loving mother, and a close-knit group of partners
on the police force. Things are so great for Fong that his
colleagues even hold a party for him when he successfuly
cracks a previously unsolved bank robbery case. But things
go awry soon afterwards when Fong and his cop buddies begin
to stakeout a well-known thief and his shady accomplices.
Ultimately, two of the policemen are killed, two others
injured, and Fong is left in a coma after a bullet wound
to the head. In one fateful moment, Officer Fong's life
is changed forever.
Two years later, Fong finally
awakens from his long slumber to find that the world has
moved on without him. Not only has his mother died in the
intervening years, but his girlfriend May (Fennie Yuen)
has taken up with a new man. On the plus side, the beautiful,
yet oddly named Nurse Oscar (Loletta Lee) has been taking
care of Fong and seems to have a crush on him. Fong also
befriends Kit (Cheung Tat-Ming), an amiable psychologist-turned-patient.
Or so it seems. After a few weird experiences in the hospital,
Fong learns that several of the patients that he greets
on a daily basis are seen only by him, including his new
pal Kit! Apparently, the near-death experience has given
Fong a special gift. Like Haley Joel Osment before him,
Fong sees dead people. Ooh, creepy.
After the initial shock of
his new talent wears off, Fong continues his friendship
with Kit in secret, using his ghostly companion as a tutor
of sorts over all things supernatural. Fong also tries to
pick up the pieces of his shattered lifevisiting his
mother's grave, making peace with his old girlfriend, and
coping with the seemingly unending guilt over his role in
the tragic death of his cop pals. Eventually, Fong embarks
on a relationship with his doting nurse, and is soon back
on the job, heading a special police task force dedicated
to bringing a serial killer to justice. Unfortunately, the
killer likes to prey on young, beautiful nurses. Does that
mean Fong's beloved Nurse Oscar is in danger? If you answered
"no," then you need to see more serial killer
Nightmares in Precinct
7 is a surprisingly engaging attempt at a supernatural
thriller. Although the film isn't particularly scary, the
actors' performances make up for the film's lack of chills.
Andy Hui makes for a likeable enough lead character, while
Loletta Lee's turn as the cute-as-a-button Nurse Oscar amplifies
what could have been a limp romantic angle into high drama
when the serial killer's attention finally turns to her.
It's always a plus when the audience actually cares about
the character who just might be victimized by story's end,
and in the case of Nurse Oscar, we most certainly do. Cheung
Tat-Ming portrayal of Fong's comical phantom mentor is also
worthy of praise. The inclusion of such a character could
have been a misstep, but somehow the plot device works,
and injects some levity in a variety of scenes. Director
Herman Yau deftly juggles the various aspects of the plotthe
supernatural, the dramatic, the romantic, and the comicin
a way that doesn't seem awkward at all.
Now for the bad part. The
movie possesses a seemingly out-of-nowhere "shock"
ending that will frustrate many viewers, this one included.
The filmmakers try to soften the blow with a further "happy"
development, but upon closer inspection the whole finale
seems rushed and somewhat silly. The unexpected turn of
events that occurs in the final reel almost seems to set
up a potential sequel, though the premise of that nonexistent
film would probably be more appropriate for a high concept
romantic comedy than a supernatural chiller. (You'll have
to see the movie to understand exactly what the hell I'm
talking about. Sorry folks.) The film's semi-downbeat ending
isn't exactly out of left field, but the scene's poor execution
makes it difficult to accept.
But apart from that minor
quibble, Nightmares in Precinct 7 works as a strangely
satisfyingthough unspectacularcinematic diversion.
It isn't particularly scary, nor is it particularly deep,
but even so, the film is head and shoulders above some of
the pop star fluff that's been coming out of Hong Kong lately.
While some of those movies will induce nightmares, this
one won't. And that's a good thing…even if it is supposed
to be a horror movie. (Calvin McMillin 2003)