lthough sold as a Supernatural Horror film, the new Jordan
Chan movie "Sleeping with the Dead" actually works better as a Drama.
For one thing, the supernatural premise behind "Sleeping" is a retread
of the Kevin Bacon film "Stir of Echoes", involving a vengeful female
spirit that comes back from the grave to exact bloody revenge on her
perpetrators. (Hint: The two films involve girls and walls.) It's interesting to
note that the vast majority of horror films currently being put out by Asian
filmmakers are, more often than not, about vengeful female spirits. (Perhaps a
continent is taking the whole "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn"
saying a bit too far, eh?)
Jordan Chan ("Bio
Zombie") takes a mature turn in "Sleeping with the Dead" as
David, a doctor who can, in the tradition of recent Hong Kong horror fare, see
dead people. Or at least that's the premise. Actually, David doesn't see all
that many dead people; in the course of the movie, I counted David's unearthly
visitations to be 3. Beyond those times, the ghosts that do appear to David are
seen by everyone else as well, so it wouldn't be correct to say David is
special, even though the movie seems to think so.
At its heart, "Sleeping" wants to be about David
coming to grips with his wife Jane, who he suspects of having an affair, and his
own inability to enjoy life and be happy. But since the title has
"dead" in it, the movie is forced to bring in an investigation into a
series of ghostly slayings. "Sleeping" would have been advised to
stick to the dramatics and leave the weak stab at horror alone. The movie's
ghost showdown features bad blood sfx and a skeletal dummy, which leads to the
inevitable conclusion that "Sleeping" just doesn't want to be a horror
Although there's nothing remotely scary about
"Sleeping", there is something nice about David's relationship with
Cindy (Kelly Lin), a mysterious and alluring woman who he meets at a nightclub.
Cindy can see the unhappiness in David's life, and wants to change it, although
she admits that she might leave him without notice. Unfortunately their love
affair only adds to the realization that "Sleeping" is a very poor
horror film that should have stuck to being a Drama.
"Sleeping with the Dead" is an appropriate title,
but this is only realized at the end of the film. For much of the movie, I kept
wondering what the title meant, since David doesn't do much "seeing"
of dead people, nor does he do a lot of investigating the ghostly deaths. The
latter is left up to Simon Loui, who also wrote the screenplay and looks just as
unhappy to be involved in the whole ghost thing. Loui plays a detective name
Iron Cheung, who is also a childhood friend of David. It seems that the victims
of the ghost are old friends of David and Cheung, and the killings may have
something to do with a female friend who went missing years ago. And oh, all the
guys are getting killed on their birthday, and Cheung's day of celebration is
coming up fast.
The shocking revelation of "Sleeping" can be seen
a mile away by anyone paying attention, and normally I would be irritated at
this lack of subtlety in the screenplay. I say "normally" because I
wasn't irritated at all this time around. Why? Because "Sleeping" is
such a bad mystery and weak ghost story that I could care less why the ghost was
killing men and pulling out their left eyeballs. I could also care less why the
victims start to manifest scars before their deaths. The film has so little
interest in making the mystery and horror elements original or effective, I in
turn had little interest in caring.
The only good spots of "Sleeping with the Dead"
is Kelly Lin ("Running
Out of Time 2"), who provides a nice, cheerful counterbalance to Jordan
Chan's brooding portrayal of David. Chan's acting style seems to be predicated
on his belief that if he's playing an adult character he has to brood and look
serious and emotionless. It doesn't work, and because the film spends so much
time with the frowning Chan, there is almost no energy to the movie whatsoever.
Wake up, Jordan!
As a whole, "Sleeping with the Dead" looks cheap,
and even Kelly Lin's exuberant presence can't save it. The screenplay by Simon
Loui lacks any sort of scare and doesn't seem to have any enthusiasm for what's
going on. And even though Wai-Man Cheung's direction is sometimes inspired, it's
mostly too by the numbers. For a better horror movie, try the frightful "The
Eye" with Angelica Lee, or even the generic South Korean Ghost Story
which also happens to involve girls and walls.