Friday, September 22, 2006

Review: Re-Cycle

  • Directed by the Pang Brothers
  • Starring Angelica Lee
  • Released in Thailand cinemas on September 21, 2006.
  • Rating: 3/5
Conceptually and visually, the Pang Brothers' latest horror film, Re-cycle, is the most daring thing they've done. But a weak story that tends towards melodrama softens the impact, and as if implied by the title, the scares are things that have been seen before in other Asian horror films.

A Thai-Hong Kong co-production that was shot in Thailand with a Thai crew and cast of extras, Re-cycle also reunited the Pangs with Angelica Lee, the whimpering star from The Eye (though Lee and Oxide Pang have been in a relationship for some time).

The concept is that there’s a dimension, or alternate universe, where everything that's ever been thrown away goes to spend eternity. Controversially, these discarded items include unwanted children and fetuses, and the Pangs have been called out by various interest groups, saying the film has an anti-abortion stance.

But, it's just a movie, the Pangs have said. And the scene involving a chamber of fetuses, in various stages of development, from one you can hold in the palm of your hand to a near-term baby, is probably the scariest. And even if the visuals aren't all that scary, they are a wonder to behold and make this film worth seeing. It's no wonder it was chosen for as the closer for this year’s Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard program, which highlights visually daring works.

Lee portrays Ting-yin, a writer who wrote a best-selling trilogy of romance novels eight years before. Her agent has already announced that her next book is a supernatural thriller, but she hasn't written a page. There's a bit of herself in her stories' protagonist, she tells the press, but since she broke up with her lover ("Jay" Jetrin Wattanasin), there's not going to be any more romance novels.

So she starts on her book, and weird things start happening. A strange lock of hair turns up on the kitchen counter. The crumpled-up balls of paper from early drafts of her story start rustling around in the dustbin of their own accord. There's a scary shower scene. Some screams are left on her telephone answering machine. She rides a creepy elevator with a little girl and a granny and gets off on what is decidedly the wrong floor – her recycled dimension of lost toys, second-hand books and discarded lives.

Eventually, she's on the run from grey-skinned zombies – wondrous creatures really, they should be in more films – and is led to safety by the little girl from the elevator, who rides astride a giant hobby horse, as if she's a knight in shining armour. It helps that the girl is cute, not creepy, like most horror-movie kids are. More about their relationship is revealed, as is Ting-yin’s relationship with Jay's character. Just who was discarded?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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