Friday, November 10, 2006

The Maid (2006)

The Maid starts off strong and has some decent scares, but uses too many cliches from other films to really take off on its own.

Rosa moves from the Philippines to Singapore to work as a maid for Mr. and Mrs. Teo and their mentally handicapped 20 year old son. The Teo's run a Chinese opera company and frequently put on elaborate productions, especially during the month that Rosa arrives. Her arrival coincides with the seventh month of the Chinese year, a month when the gates to hell are temporarily opened and ghosts are free to roam about.

Rosa learns a quick lesson in respecting the ancient Chinese rituals of the "Hungry Ghosts" when she mistakenly sweeps up some burnt offerings. Her retribution is immediate as she begins to see ghosts all around her.

Not only that, but Rosa also has to deal with the mystery of what happened to the previous maid, Esther, figuring out why a certain girl always runs away from her, being in a foreign land all alone, and, oh! the horror of keeping the house clean.

The cons: There were some nice jump scares throughout, but the ghosts don't do much besides harass Rosa and glare at her. The ghost themselves - eh, looked typical for your Asian ghost movie. It was fun learning about the Chinese seventh month, but only the first time - the five billionth time it was explained I could recite the spiel from memory. The English dialogue spoken by the Teo's was nearly indecipherable at times since they spoke with a heavy Chinese accent. The film did not provide subtitles during these scenes, which sometimes made it frustrating to follow what they were saying. The plot was stretched thin and the twist at the end...not too surprising. It didn't build suspense but rather tried to shock with jump scares punctuated by screechy violins and bad sound effects.

The pros: I did like the cinematography, which was quite beautiful. The shots of the Chinese opera performance were vivid and colorful, as were the scenes with offerings being given to the ghosts. I also liked learning about Chinese folklore, though it was repeated over and over and over again. The shots of the ghosts, especially those in the background and those at the opera, were unsettling. I admit that there were some parts in the movie that freaked me out, namely the ghostly figures at the beginning of the movie that Rosa saw out of the corner of her eye. Unfortunately, those feelings of slowly building creepiness were all taken away with the intrusive and abrasive music that accompanied most of the scares.

If this film had come out a few years ago, I probably would have loved it, but it borrowed too heavily from other movies like The Sixth Sense, The Eye, Ju-On, etc. The Maid also relied too heavily on shocks and jump scares, acting more like an American movie than the typical Asian horror film that tends to build suspense. Stylistically, it is a very beautiful film, but visuals alone can't help the thin storyline.

On Amazon!

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