UK Release date: 23rd April 2012
UK Distributor: Cine Du Monde
Director: The Pang Brothers
Starring: Angelica Lee, Yaqi Zeng, Viraiwon Jauwseng, Siu-Ming Lau, Lawrence Chou
Running time: 109 mins
Reviewers: Daryl Wing & Adam Wing
The Pang Brothers (Danny Pang Fat and Oxide Pang Chun) have struggled in recent years to build on the success of their hit Asian horror film The Eye, which has spawned two inferior sequels, as well as a Hollywood remake. The pair made their directorial debut as a team with Bangkok Dangerous, but arguably their most imaginative and striking film is 2006’s effort Re-cycle.
Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee) is a young writer whose first novel has become the best seller in South East Asia. Her fans eagerly await her next book, entitled ‘The Re-cycle’, a story dealing with supernatural forces.
Battling against writer’s block and a tenacious publisher, her attempts to finish the book are further hindered by the re-emergence of an old flame hoping they can reignite their love for one another.
A conversation over dinner forces Ting-Yin to make an important decision about their future, but various weird incidents hamper the progress of her book. Is her jilted lover responsible for the silent phone calls and mysterious break-ins, or does blame bizarrely lay at the feet of her new heroine – fiction fearfully becoming fact?
He said: Few filmmakers thrill and frustrate the way The Pang Brothers do. Early collaborations – Bangkok Dangerous and The Eye in particular – were smash hits the world over. Their solo outings have been something of a mixed bag, with Oxide fairing slightly better than Danny. Abnormal Beauty, Diary and The Detective are certainly worth a look, but recent offerings have definitely been more miss than hit. Storm Warriors – a sequel to The Storm Riders – was a huge disappointment, we have had to endure Hollywood misfire The Messengers, as well as 3D infused (should that read infuriating?) features The Childs Eye and Sleepwalker.
She Said: The Pang Brothers have once again assembled a small but talented cast that manage to captivate with strong performances. Angelica Lee first worked with them in The Eye and earlier this year even married one of the twins, Oxide. Ting-Yu (Yaqi Zeng), the stranger in whom Ting-Yin all too readily invests her trust is particularly plausible, as is Lee’s character, even if at times their relationship isn’t.
He said: From a technical perspective The Pang Brothers have always been impressive, and in terms of ground-breaking visuals they always raise the bar. Storyline and character development have taken a backseat in recent years, which probably explains why latter movies have failed to set the world on fire. The same can’t be said for Re-cycle though, a movie with imagination oozing from every frame. You’ll be hard pushed to find it in the opening act though, as everything about the first thirty minutes suggests textbook horror yarn.
She said: The opening act, in which Ting-Yin is alone in her house struggling to write the novel, provides many of the more unnerving moments. There are a couple of very suspenseful scenes (the bathroom and the corridor definite highlights), and one superbly timed leap-out-of-your-seat scare. The Pangs know all the tricks, as time and time again the camera uncomfortably lingers on Lee’s face waiting for something to take us by surprise, which it inevitably does. In fact, the opening half hour has more tension than a lot of Hollywood’s scare-fests in their entirety.
He said: The Pang Brothers should certainly stick to the fantasy genre, because the imagery they conjure is positively sublime. There are so many worlds to choose from (in some ways it plays like a video game), and with each new world comes a fresh challenge for the filmmakers. They don’t ignore their horror roots entirely, but by incorporating worthwhile themes, they are able to dig that little bit deeper.
She said: There’s imagery here that will remain with you forever, but the terror that could’ve been generated from such ghoulish creations in delightfully dismal locations for the most part vanishes. The playground of the damned, ghosts’ bridge and the embryo tunnel succeed in sending minor shivers down the spine, but other levels, like the gravestones and the escape, are disappointingly underplayed. Even the forest of hang, with its falling dead bodies and long-necked zombies, somehow comes up short after an impressive introduction.
He said: With so much invention in every frame, there’s a chance you’ll get lost in the elegance of it all, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll discover a whole lot more than a pretty picture book. The Pang Brothers are keen to tackle some serious issues along the way, with themes of love, loss and above all else, abandonment, tugging at the heartstrings of contemporary horror.
She said: Sucked into the strangest of spheres along with the protagonist, you’ll be hypnotized by its sudden transformation. So much so, the ghostly apparition who spooked so hauntingly in the first act, now stalking Ting-yin on her own terms, is forgiven for not quite making the grade. Sadly, she is revealed far too early and her character is fairly redundant, even in the final third, but the story has moved on and her character, cleverly, is just another condemned idea that litters this bleak new planet.
He said: Angelica Lee brings natural warmth to the role of Ting-yin, as she did in The Eye and Chi-Leung Law’s enthusiastic horror outing, Koma. Ting-yin is both beautiful and fragile, but much like every classic horror ‘victim’, she comes with a steely determination that wins through in the final act.
She said: The idea that everything you thought about and didn’t do during your lifetime happens in this new world, along with stories, lovers and toys you long since resigned to the trash is such a huge premise you can’t help but think that Re-cycle deserves a longer journey. Jumping from one set piece to another as our heroine tries to escape, although rewarding, disappoints merely because the twist ending is actually quite a surprise.
He said: It would be easy to criticise Re-cycle for being little more than an extended chase sequence with fancy visuals, but taking that stance is missing the point entirely. The Pang Brothers have stepped outside the box with Re-cycle, delivering a fantasy yarn with great performances, striking visuals and deeper meaning. It just so happens to have zombies, ghosts and people falling from the sky.
She said: Minor niggles disappoint, but Re-cycle is still a film that deserves a lot of respect. You will be scared. You will be blown away. You will be touched. When a film manages to deliver such transports of delight, it’s foolish to ignore such entertainment.