Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Re-Cycle (2008)

The Pang Brothers have a mixed record with horror movies. On the one hand, they crafted the spine-tingling The Eye and its enjoyable sequel. However, they also helmed the dismal The Messengers, disappointing horror fans everywhere. Still, when I heard the Pang Brothers had a new film out called Re-cycle (the film was released on the international market in 2006, but it’s only recently been released on DVD here in the United States), I couldn’t help to hope that it would be a return to their visually impressive storytelling techniques.

A popular romance novelist, Tsui Ting-Yin (Lee Sinjie), decides to try her hand at crafting a supernatural story, but soon realizes that her ghostly, long-haired character has come to life. Hoping to write more, Ting-Yin follows the specter, but ends up in another ghostly world where anyone and everything that has ever been abandoned resides. Trying to escape the frightening ghouls that inhabit this plane of existence, she meets a young girl, whom she calls Ting-Yu (Yagi Zeng), who promises to take her to “The Transport,” a far-off place that will take Ting-Yin back to her own world. On the journey to “The Transport,” they encounter monsters, ghosts, zombies and other forgotten souls, as well as avoiding a whirl-wind phenomenon that sucks up everything in its path, essentially erasing it forever. Can Ting-Yin make it back to the real world or will she be stuck in this horrifying place forever?

Re-cycle completely blew me away with its original premise and execution. The visuals in this film are just stunning and there just aren’t enough words to describe just how awe-inspiring this film really is…but I’ll try!

During the first 30 or so minutes, the Pang Brothers play with the audience and open the film like any other Asian ghost story. There is the requisite shadowy, long-haired ghost and the frightened female protagonist. We also get quite a few good scares out of the first half hour, but it’s not until Ting-Yin takes a tumble down the proverbial rabbit hole that things really take off…

When Ting-Yin ends up in the other world, the Pang Brothers stop fooling around and get down to business. The colorful, vivid and creative scenes in Re-cycle are probably the best visuals the Pang Brothers have imagined and executed…EVER. First, we get a massive, derelict city that Ting-Yin becomes lost in, then we get an amazing abandoned amusement park, complete with a rotting Ferris wheel and swinging pirate ship. Other memorable scenes include a spooky scene when ghouls creep down trees in a haunted forest, a tense scene in which our two protagonists must cross a crumbling old bridge (populated by the shambling undead) that stretches across a rocky ravine, a hair-raising scene where Ting-Yin must traverse a space full of aborted fetuses and a scene where they must cross an old graveyard inhabited by hungry spirits whose ancestors have forgotten about them. Each scene is amazing and the sets are just incredibly beautiful and frightening, all at once!

The acting here is also top-notch, with the lead of Lee Sinjie as Tsui Ting-Yin conveying many complex emotions. She is a very believable character and right away you feel sympathetic towards her. Her character is both strong and vulnerable, and Sinjie portrays this effortlessly. The little girl who plays Ting-Yu, Yagi Zeng, is also incredible as well. She gives a very leveled, believable and endearing performance as the young but brave Ting-Yu. You can thank Zeng for giving the movie a lot of heart.

The end of the film is very touching and delves into pretty emotional territory when we learn more about a tragedy in Ting-Yin’s past, but this only adds to the depth and character of this fantastic film. The visuals at the ending are extremely impressive as well, especially when time stops for Ting-Yin and freezes the ghost and the horde of ghouls who have caught up to her. The special effects here are seamless, as they are for the rest of the film).

Now, this film is not your typical horror film or even your typical Asian horror film (though it starts out that way). I would say that this film is more fantasy-flavored than horror, but don’t let that deter you from seeing Re-cycle! It truly is an amazing film and the horror elements (there are many) will have you hooked! The horror elements that are there are pretty startling and scary, so there is no reason why horror fans shouldn’t check out the superior Re-cycle.

Re-cycle is definitely one of the best and most creative films I’ve seen this year!

Available from Amazon!

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