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Nightmares in Precinct 7
Year: 2001 "Me and Sammi are really only friends. Honest."
Loletta Lee and Andy Hui
Director: Herman Yau Lai-To
Producer: Ng Kin-Hung, Raymond Wong Bak-Ming
Writer: Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Paul Chung Shing-Yuen, Herman Yau Lai-To
Cast: Andy Hui Chi-On, Loletta Lee Lai-Chun, Cheung Tat-Ming, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Fennie Yuen Kit-Ying, William So Wing-Hong, Celia See Lim-Chi, Monica Lo Suk-Yi, Lee Wai-Shing, Lam Suet, Timothy Zao, Gwan Lai-Git, Benny Li Shun-Yan, Henry Fong Ping
The Skinny: A surprisingly decent horror effort from director Herman Yau that mixes The Sixth Sense with a standard serial killer subplot.
Review by

     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 life—visiting 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 movies.
     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 plot—the supernatural, the dramatic, the romantic, and the comic—in 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 satisfying—though unspectacular—cinematic 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)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Modern Audio
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen