An Asian ghost flick without one decent scare in two hours, “Silk” is way too smooth for its own good. Reportedly, at $6.2 million, the most expensive locally-funded movie ever made in Taiwan, tale of a bunch of scientists who manage to capture a tyke ghost boasts impressive f/x but brings nothing new to the genre table. Given the continuing strength of the Asian scare industry, pic seemed a strange choice for a slot in Cannes’ Official Selection, and looks to segue rapidly to ancillary, especially in the West.
Writer-director Su Chao-pin sprung to attention four years ago with the cheeky comedy “Better Than Sex,” but the sophomore curse strikes with a vengeance in “Silk.” Over-complicated script, which tries to mix science, ghost cliches and protags’ personal problems in a single pot, starts OK but gradually runs out of steam after the first 40 minutes.
Pic suffers from all of the same problems that afflicted earlier Taiwanese psycho-thriller, “Double Vision” (2002), which Su scripted: fuzzy writing, lack of on-screen chemistry between usually reliable thesps, and no real imagination beyond the f/x. Though made on a fraction of the “Silk” budget, there’s more creepiness and invention per foot of film in last year’s Taiwanese spookfest “The Heirloom.”
A team of scientists, led by the crippled Hashimoto (Yosuke Eguchi), have discovered a boy ghost (Chen Kuan-po) in a rundown Taipei apartment block and, using an anti-gravitational device called the Menger Sponge — a kind of Rubik’s Cube with a mind of its own — have trapped it in a room-cum-lab.
To help solve the mystery of who the kid is, Hashimoto recruits local police sharpshooter Ye Chi-tung (Chang Chen), who has exceptional eyesight and also happens to lip-read.
A smidgeon of character conflict is generated early on as Hashimoto’s colleague, Su Yuen (Barbie Hsu, barbed), who also fancies the Japanese cripple, resents Ye being hired. When she, in the pic’s best sequence, ends up dead after trying to smuggle the ghost out for her own purposes, a lot of air goes out of the film’s balloon.
With Su out of the way, Ye is free to action his plan of releasing and following the ghost — which he can see by spraying an aerosol version of the Menger Sponge on his eyes. (Right.) The journey subsequently touches on Ye’s troubled personal past as well as impacting his present relationship with flower-shop cutie Du Jia-wei (Karena Lam).
One of the best of Hong Kong’s younger generation of actresses, Lam is wasted in a blah role, and ditto Taiwanese star Chen Po-lin in a support as one of Hashimoto’s assistants. Chang is all icy, uninvolving control as Ye and Japanese thesp Eguchi scowls under heavy make-up.
The largely Hong Kong tech team produce a smooth package, led by Arthur Wong’s lensing (all cold colors) and composer Peter Kam’s by-the-yard atmospherics. Visual effects, by H.K.’s Menfond, and special make-up effects, by Australia’s MEG, are tip-top. But it’s all a lot of tech talent in service of very little.