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Also known by the decidedly more fitting name “Nightclub Suspense Tale”, “Any Other Side” is another Chinese omnibus of ghostly tales of the weird and supernatural, marking the debut of writer director Fang Yaxi (aka Captain Fang). Featuring three tangentially linked stories, the genre outing boasts a top eye candy cast of popular young actors and actresses, including the gorgeous Hong Kong actress model Chrissie Chau (“Hong Kong Ghost Stories”), Taiwanese star and singer Van Fan (“Cape No. 7”), Singaporean actor Qi Yuwu (“Painted Skin”), up and coming Mainland starlet Deng Jiajia (“Double Trouble”) and singer Yida Huang.
The film revolves around a framing device of a group of 5 friends meeting in a nightclub and sharing spooky stories over a few drinks. “Lost” comes first, following Chrissie Chau as a young wheelchair bound woman being menaced in her house by a raincoat wearing killer, who she believes has killed her twin sister and who just happens to be her husband (Van Fan). Next up is “One Way Only”, with Van appearing this time as a journalist who takes his daughter on an evening drive, and after making a short cut down a misty one way country road ends up caught in a strange time loop and running into a mysterious young woman played by Jill Hsu (“Always Smile”). Finally, the viewer is thrown into the madness of “Nurse on Duty”, in which Deng Jiajia stars as a nurse whose first night on duty sees her being confronted with zombies, insanity and musical set pieces, not to mention Hong Kong 1990s comedy veteran Yuen King Tan (who appeared in more than 10 films a year at the height of her career).
“Any Other Side” really is quite an oddball outing, the three half hour segments ranging from the quirky to the flat out gibberish. Things start off sensibly enough, with “Lost” being an interesting little tale, and though its twists are manipulative it works pretty well as an enjoyable slice of psycho schlock, Chrissie Chau making the most of her shifting double role. Although “One Way Only” veers from horror and into “Twilight Zone” style shenanigans, with a plot that resembles Nacho Vigalondo’s “Timecrimes”, it makes for a similar amount of fun, with some amusingly constructed twists and turns along the way to its conclusion. Whilst there aren’t many actual frights in either, both pack in enough creepy action and silliness to hold the interest.
“Nurse on Duty”, however, is a different matter entirely, its seemingly simple premise masking 30 minutes of nonsensical, far out wackiness that sees Deng Jiajia having bizarre encounters with apparently zombified patients, Freddy Kruger, Jason Vorhees, a clutch of Hollywood superheroes and even Michael Jackson – the latter resulting in a medley of music and dance. Added to this are some absolutely non-regulation sexy nurse uniforms being modelled by Deng Jiajia and Chrissie Chau and a broad line in eccentric humour, making the segment really quite hard to believe, in a way which some viewers will warm to while leaving others scratching their heads in utter bewilderment, not least due to its curious and off target attempt to weave the tale into the framing device.
The film gets a real boost from what appears to have been a much higher budget than most Chinese genre efforts of late, giving it a far more professional and glossy look than might have been expected. Fang Yaxi does a decent enough job in the director’s chair, showing far more coherence and common sense than he does as a writer and the film generally moves along at a decent pace. The idea of having the cast play different characters in each segment proves effective, tying in quite neatly with the urban stories element, and though the framing device itself was presumably only included as a way round the Chinese censors (underlining the fact that the supernatural elements are only part of tall tales), it’s never too laboured.
“Any Other Side” is definitely better than expected, and though wildly uneven in tone is one of the more enjoyable and accomplished Chinese genre outings of the last year. Viewers satisfied with watching a good looking cast getting thrust into odd situations should certainly find enough to pass the time quite amiably, and though Fang Yaxi never produces anything outstanding, the film is pleasing and well-done in its own modest way.
Yaxi Fang (director) / Yaxi Fang (screenplay)
CAST: Chrissie Chau