Business intrigue and Chinese whispers fail to create tension in "Clay Fear," a glossy but empty supernatural thriller from China. With multiple bows to Nipponese culture, Chinese helmer  and Japanologist Zhang Jiabei strives for a J-horror atmosphere, but sleek package is too strained and slight to convince.

Business intrigue and Chinese whispers fail to create tension in “Clay Fear,” a glossy but empty supernatural thriller from China. With multiple bows to Nipponese culture, Chinese helmer  and Japanologist Zhang Jiabei strives for a J-horror atmosphere, but  sleek package is too strained and slight to convince. Midnight madness fest programmers may consider this, but confused plot and clumsy  frights may bring more scorn than scares. Pic is skedded for domestic release in April.

Pottery factory owner Ming Fu (Ng Kai Wah) is haunted by  visions of the blazing death of his business  partner in a suspicious fire. Widowed, Ming is set to marry Ye Yue  (Miao Pu) much to the consternation of Ming’s “Rebecca”-like  housemaid Zhen Zi (Ayumi Ito of “All About Lily Chou-Chou”), who just  happens to be his late wife’s sister. Yarn hints at paranormal causes as more of Ming’s business associates die one by one, but an early slip gives the game away. Zhang’s helming, aided by Japanese vet Yudai Kato’s lustrous lensing, is inventive, but a heavy glazing  of horror cliches make this cracked yarn damaged goods. Tech credits are impressive.

Clay Fear

China

Production

A Li Yunliang Film Workshop production in association with  Shanghai Film Group, Shanghai Haixiang Culture Media Co., JC Compass. (International sales: Shanghai Film Group, Shanghai.) Produced by Ren Zhonglun, Zhong Wei, Mao  Zhenyong. Executive producers, Li Yunliang, Zhang Jiabei. Directed by Zhang Jiabei. Screenplay, Yang Zi.

Crew

Camera (color),  Yudai Kato; editor, Xu Dong; music, Su Junjie; production designers,  Li Jian, Yan Hao, Wang Yongyuan. Reviewed at Yubari Fantastic Film  Festival (Young Fantastic, competing), Japan, Feb. 24, 2006. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Ng Kai Wah, Miao Pu, Ayumi Ito, Yang Lichen.
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