Director: Billy Chung
Cast: Julian Cheung, Maju Ozawa, Tse Kwan-Ho, Same Lee, Lam Suet
2002 is a fruitful year for horror movie in Hong Kong. To name a few successful ones are Inner Senses, The Eye and Three. In the end of the year, the trend does not die away, more and more horror flicks keep emerging, Possessed is another typical product of this trend.
The story of this film follows the cliche of the genre - a ghost is seeking revenge against the protagonists. What is unusual and innovative about this story is that a clergyman is included. In most Chinese horror movies, the exorcist is always a Chinese monk or Dao master, it is rare to have a catholic clergyman to fight the ghost. Nevertheless, it is little disappointing that director Billy Chung did not spend too much time on this atypical character, most of the film is in fact assigned to the love sub-plot between Julian Cheung and Maju Ozawa, which is depicted in a dry and insipid manner. The story also fails to explain some of the mysteries like why there is a two years interval before the ghost seeks his revenge. The ending is awkward as we do not understand why so and so (no spoiler...) is the one to suffer.
What I like about this movie is the horrific atmosphere generated by the director. For instance, the scene when Sam Lee kills his mother is very realistic and has a documentary touch; the moments when Julian Cheung and Tse Kwan-Ho are haunted are also eye catching. Although most scenes lack surprise, they are still handled properly. As I have said above, since a clergyman is employed to substitute "Lung Po" (a representative figure of Hong Kong ghostbuster that is usually portrayed by actress Law Lan), it is not hard to expect some religious "exorcist" scenes. In fact, these scenes are quite refreshing as they are not normally seen in a Hong Kong movie, but the problem is that they resemble their western counterpart Exorcist (1973) too much, that it is like a copycat of the western classic. Another disappointing part of the movie is the love sub-plot of Cheung and Ozawa. Similar to Billy Chung's previous film Devil Face Angel Heart, the love scenes are very boring and prolonged outrageously that is tough for audience to endure. It is also difficult to understand why this girlfriend character has to be Japanese, as it has nothing to do with the story itself, nor is it related to the horror plot at all. If the portion of this love story can be minimized, while the character of the clergyman, or the conflict between the clergyman and the TV studio, can be extended, I am sure this movie would be more engaging, and the pace would also speed up a lot.
As the protagonists of the movie, Julian Cheung and Maju Ozawa have done a qualified job, but they are in no way comparable with Tse Kwan-Ho, an excellent stage actor. Tse is few of the actors in Hong Kong who can act with their eyes alone (Other examples are Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Anthony Wong). In this movie, what is astonishing about Tse's performance is that he is able to express the misery of the characters with merely his eyes. Dialogues seem to be totally redundant. In fact, his character is designed more successfully and profoundly than the two protagonists. He has to suffer the loss of his wife and also the shaking of his belief. His role is definitely worth more screen time than he has now. Other minor roles like the possessed Sam Lee and Yoyo Chen are also impressive.
It is not easy to summarize Billy Chung's movies since his performance is always fluctuating. He has made successful works like Esprit D'Amour and Undercover Blues before, but he is also the director of crappy productions like Devil Face Angel Heart. For Possessed, I would say it is a mediocre effort, that is, you wouldn't find it very boring, but on the other hand, there are not too much to praise or discover as well.
Cool guy(s) - Tse Kwan-Ho
Reviewed by: Kantorates