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Sleeping with the Dead
Chinese: 枕邊凶靈
Jordan Chan and Kelly Lin
Year: 2000
Director: Steve Cheng Wai-Man
Producer: Raymond Wong Bak-Ming
Writer: Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Steve Cheng Wai-Man, Kelvin Lee, Isis Lau
Cast: Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Kelly Lin, Sharon Chan Man-Chi, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Paul Wong Koon-Chung, Cheung Tat-Ming, David Lee Wai-Seung
The Skinny: Poor special effects hurt this interesting, if somewhat clunky, horror flick. While less polished and artful than Visible Secret 2, the film has a more effective storyline, and good art direction. This isn't The Ring or The Eye, but for a Hong Kong horror effort, it ain't bad.
by Kozo:

Shu Qi sees dead people. So did Angelica Lee, Karena Lam and Sammi Cheng. Well, now Jordan Chan can join their ranks. In Sleeping with the Dead, Chan shares the same supernatural ability as those women. However, unlike his fellow "seeing the deceased" club members, he's saddled with a less polished movie. And let's face it, he's nowhere near as pretty.

Chan plays David, an emotionally frigid doctor who gained the ability to see the dead when he briefly flatlined as a child. He's used to seeing ghosts, but still feels aloof and separate from the people around him. He's uncommunicative with both his co-workers (including fellow doctor Cheung Tat-Ming) and his wife Jane (Sharon Chan). When David learns that Jane may be having an affair, he ends up embarking on a fling with the sexy Cindy (Kelly Lin), who he meets while clubbing.

However, David's infidelity isn't the main story here. No, it's your standard "ghost kills people" deal where dead bodies are showing up with some disturbing trends. Three victims thus far have been killed on their birthdays, and all had their left eyeballs removed by some sharp weapon. Even worse, the victims are three of a group of seven childhood friends. Of the last four, both David and cop Iron Cheung (Simon Lui) remain. Even worse, Cheung's birthday is only a few days away. And, mysterious scars begin to show up on his body, including one conveniently near his left eye.

The details created by writer/director Steve Cheng and writer/producer Simon Lui (yes, he's a triple-threat) are suprisingly effective, as they hint towards a previous crime that's chilling and unnerving. Despite his occasional smarmy and annoying performances, Lui has actually amassed a decent writing filmography. He usually attempts to marry character to story, and creates suprisingly thoughtful and well-plotted scripts. Sleeping with the Dead is no different, as it uses the details of the film to illuminate the character of David, who's played with effective moroseness by Jordan Chan. David's relationship with the dead is proof of his own corpse-like existence. It isn't until he learns to confront death that he can begin to have some semblance of a life. Lui and his co-writers manage a worthy theme, and Chan's performance lends it weight and dignity.

It would be nice if the rest of the film could find some consistency to match. While the storyline and atmosphere are suprisingly decent, the execution of the whole thing is somewhat lacking. There are far too many moments of clunky exposition where a character basically explains what the film is about. Furthermore, the film's details are given away too easily, making it easy to predict the story's later twists. It would have been better had director Cheng been more opaque with his storytelling, but his inconsistent technique is too revealing and distracting. He would have been better off making the film slow and gradually unnerving, but his usage of quick-cut montage makes it seem as if he didn't trust the material.

Then there's the special effects, which are god-awful to the point of gut-busting laughter. By the time the climax of the film rolls around, we're treated to supposedly involving revelations complemented by props that look like they were purchased at Spencer's Gifts. The dialogue itself is clichéd but appropriate, but it absolutely flops when paired with plastic-looking minions of horror. As such, the film's comparatively developed storyline loses its possible resonance. It seems like Lui and company were aiming for artful Japanese horror, but instead they produced an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

Still, to call Sleeping with the Dead a failure would be unfair. It possesses enough good ideas and workable atmosphere to make it a decent horror exercise. Unfortunately, the uneven direction and occasionally canned script cheapens the film's promise. Sleeping with the Dead has a much better storyline than Visible Secret 2, but comes off looking worse. Had Lui and company approached the story in a less exploitative manner they could have created a much better film. (Kozo 2002)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSc
Modern Audio
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Deleted Scenes

 image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen