Director: Billy Chung
Cast: Athena Chu, Francis Ng, Nick Cheung, Tiffany Lee, Hui Shiu-hung
Hardcore Hong Kong movie fans should remember that 2002 was a prosperous year for horror movie. However, stepping into 2003, this trend was replaced by the outpourings of comedies. There is hardly any horror movies coming out since the beginning of the year. Excluding the low budget movies that are targetted to the VCD/DVD market, Shiver could probably be the first of its kind this year.
The director of this movie, Billy Chung, is experienced in the horror genre. His previous works like Esprit D'Amour and Possessed may not be commercial hit, but they are nevertheless considered by many as fine cult efforts. This time, Chung creates a compelling story that combines elements of horror and suspense. After Sam-yee (Athena Chu) is recovered from a head injury, she begins to see scary vision that is related to a serial murder case. However, her situation is ignored by his cop husband, Kwok-ming (Francis Ng), a "workaholic", that, eventually, leads to series of tragedy... Similar to Chung's previous works, horror or suspense is only the side dish, what the film spends most time on is the interpersonal relationship of the characters - the cold war between the couple Chu and Ng.
Chung is always good at depicting the emotions and relationships of the characters. For instance, the use of close-up to capture the facial expression of the characters has almost become a trademark of his films. Camera angle is also well considered. In the beginning, when Ng and Chu are talking in the car, the camera intentionally puts Ng on the right side of the frame, leaving the left blank, and vice versa for Chu. Superficially, it gives you an illusion that they are sitting in two different cars, in a metaphorical sense, this camera setup indeed successfully intensifies the isolated atmosphere and reflects the lack of communication between the husband and the wife. Throughout the film, scenes emphasizing the ignorance of the husband are shown again and again. A disfigured marital relationship is built up in a genuine and convincing way.
Talking about the "side dish", Chung offers nothing new to the horror genre in this film. The idea of seeing ghost/murder is merely a slightly altered ripoff from The Eye. the suspense is not impressive as well. Since there are very few characters in this story, the identity of the murderer, or the mastermind, isn't actually too hard to guess. Any viewers that have moderate intelligence should be able to predict what the plot is all about after seeing fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie. Another problem that prevents the viewers from concentrating is the affluent plot holes. For instance, it is hard to believe how Athena Chu would sit still in the car during the gun fight, even if she isn't scared, she should at least duck to protect herself from getting hit. Isn't it just natural reaction? When Ng is aware of Chu's symptom, why doesn't he hire a nurse to take care of her? or at least find a friend or relative to look after her? These plot holes are really quite distracting sometimes.
Athena Chu as the mentally disturbed wife is excellent. Identical to Karena Lam in Inner Senses, Chu rarely puts on any make-up nor shows off her body at all. It is all about her solid acting. Compared to Chu, Francis Ng and Nick Cheung rather maintain a low-profile performance, which is quite different from what they usually do.
In general, Shiver is slow-paced and the entertainment value is quite low compared to other mainstream horror/suspense movies, but Billy Chung's signature is obvious. If you are a fan of his movies, you probably wouldn't find it disappointing. Other than that, there isn't much to praise.
Cool guy(s) - Athena Chu
Reviewed by: Kantorates