'Womb Ghosts' was released this year and was directed by Denis Law. Having previously reviewed 'Bad Blood' (see the review in our database), I was initially unimpressed by this director. But having produced some acceptable martial arts flicks and having produced the very enjoyable 'Election' series, I opted to give this property magnate turned director another shot. As always, Law wrote the script and also had a hand in producing his latest offering; well you can't say that this guy doesn't really get into his work! Taking a massive step away from his usual menu of kung-fu main course with a side order of romance, Law attempts to take on some of the best in the Asian horror movie business with this movie. Let's hope that he can overcome his previous poor releases and begin to make critics sit up and notice.
The plot follows the exploits of two young girls, Zoe and Winnie. We're first introduced to Winnie, who has suffered a mysterious second miscarriage, exactly one year after the first occurred. Zoe is a nurse, who is seeking to put the love shackles on her doctor boyfriend, as he obsessively injects her with a contraceptive so that she doesn't fall pregnant. A promotional waitress by profession, Winnie returns to her normal life after her ordeal but things do not remain normal for long. She is haunted by the ghost of a child, who torments her, causing her to see horrific visions and slowly lose her mind. A similar fate also begins to encroach itself on Zoe. Winnie desperately seeks out a strange shaman in an attempt to exorcise the spirit who is haunting her but things just go from bad to worse.
I have to admit that I was not impressed with this effort from Law at all. While the premise is here to push the boundaries of horror to new and uncomfortable levels, the execution is so poor that the end product comes across as ham fisted and completely clichéd. The main “ghost” is basically a carbon copy of the highly disturbing entity from 'The Grudge' (and 'The Ring' to some degree), only in much younger format. Even the manner in which limbs pop and groan as the creature makes its way forward, with a face shrouded in a mass of black hair, are replicated here. While this doppelganger does serve to instil some of the same unease and discomfort, there's just a feeling like we've seen it all before. The secondary “ghost” resembles the little cat boy from 'The Grudge' as well, almost as though the characters have been ripped wholesale from Shimizu's superior offering. Law feebly attempts to take the terror inducing abilities of the damned to new levels by swinging an obvious model of the young ghost violently around the room and clumsily captures it “appearing” from multiple angles to induce shock. The end result is unfortunately laughably bad; nothing, alive or (un)dead, could survive such rapid movement without incurring serious whiplash!
Similarities to other Asian horrors aside, the plot starts out well enough but loses its way within the first half an hour, thanks to an incredibly confusing and disorientating narrative. Law, drawing obvious parallels to 'Bad Blood', decides to run a dual narrative here that really is only included to allow a pseudo intellectual plot to unfold. This happens in the last fifteen minutes or so (I was completely oblivious to it until then) and when “the bombshell” is dropped, it's really quite pathetic and has a real gimmicky feel to it; it seems as though this approach is fast becoming Law's trademark approach and I really hope that he decides to drop this aspect of his stories in his next production. There's not even a strong cast to pull this movie back from the brink of disaster. They comprise a bunch of unknowns, who have previously starred in bit parts in other movies (Lok-yi Lai previously starred in 'Bad Blood'). The biggest name on the roster, Suet Lam, is basically a semi-goofball actor, who normally plays a pathetic individual who is party to the influence and power of another character. Here he plays a similar role and while his quirky performance is the best of bunch, it's not enough to recommend a viewing. The rest of the collective cast are absolutely ham-tastic. They deliver their lines with either dead pan lack of emotion or completely over the top reactions. There is seemingly no real middle ground. The characterisation is absolutely abysmal and I had zero connection (and zero interest) in any of the characters or what eventually happened to them. The same can be said for the story itself, which is incredibly disjointed and nonsensical.
In Law's defense, he at least attempts some novel directorial trickery, such as the heavy use of various filters, multiple and unusual camera angles and the utilisation of hand held cameras as well (ala the Shaw Brothers). He employs an oval shroud to accentuate the focus on what's in shot but this at times can be distracting and has it's short comings (see the BD review). He's obviously used a lot of CGI in an attempt to shock the audience enough to make them scream out loud, and he enjoys moderate success with this technique here. This aspect of the presentation did have me startled on a number of occasions, as the long haired freaky looking ghost-girl popped up at the most unexpected moments, usually accompanied by a jolting audio effect. As the movie progressed, I became wary of the sound of pan-pipes and other traditional Chinese instruments, which indicated an eminent ghostly onslaught; I was still caught out a couple of times though! But really this is all this movie has to offer, cheap scares. That is, of course, disregarding some moderately disturbing (and gory) shots of foetuses and placentas. Overall though, this movie really does not even come close to some of the other more superior horrors out there at the moment. If you like clumsy horrors and don't mind an incredibly shallow plot, woeful characterisation and a disappointing climax, then this one is worth a watch; I personally would not bother though!
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