Black Night

Portmanteau horror feature's three separate stories share enough overlapping characteristics to suggest producers gave each scripter a list of elements for mandatory inclusion. Released in Hong Kong in April to respectable biz, "Black Night" is skedded for Japanese and Thai release later this year.

With:
The Lost Memory: Pitchanart Sakhakorn, Kajornsak Ratananisai, Nutsha Bootsri. (Thai dialogue)
Next Door: Annie Liu, Dylan Kuo, Race Wong. (Mandarin, Cantonese dialogue)
Dark Hole: Asaka Seto, Takashi Kashiwabara, Tomorowo Taguchi. (Japanese dialogue)

Portmanteau horror feature’s three separate stories — from Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand — share enough overlapping characteristics to suggest producers gave each scripter a list of elements for mandatory inclusion. Released in Hong Kong in April to respectable biz, “Black Night” is skedded for Japanese and Thai release later this year. Fests with midnight slots will want to look, but should not raise their expectations too high.

First installment, H.K.-set “Next Door,” is the tale of flighty sexpot Jane (Annie Liu) who returns to the apartment of her b.f., Joe (Dylan Kuo), after going AWOL. Jane suspects that, in her absence, Joe has begun a liaison with an unseen woman from the next apartment. The neighbor, Hosie (Race Wong), materializes in ghostly form (and in flashbacks) as the film employs multiple tricks to taunt and tease while revealing its backstory.

Climax shows helmer Patrick Leung and editor Tommy Wai in top form. But everything else feels over-rushed, as if compensating for the story’s hollow center.

Nipponese section, “Dark Hole,” introduces nightmare-plagued housewife Yuki (Asaka Seto) who, on the advice of her husband (Takashi Kashiwabara), visits a shrink (Tomorowo Taguchi). Under hypnosis, Yuki reveals that the many coincidental deaths in her life are attributable to an overzealous invisible friend who has protected her since childhood.

Yarn is genuinely weird, though Western viewers may balk at developments that turn on the lack of confidentiality by Japanese doctors. Story also fails to resolve itself on its own terms.

Final seg, “The Lost Memory,” is a “Memento”-flavored entry in which Thai helmer Thanit Jitnikul inventively toys with narrative. Tale involves the difficulties a husband (Kajornsak Ratananisai) experiences with his possibly hallucinating wife (Pitchanart Sakhakorn) and their maybe/maybe-not dead child.

Story is intriguingly told with multiple ellipses and, while not as frightening as it aspires to be, is ultimately the most satisfying of the trio. However, the fact each yarn dwells excessively on water imagery dilutes the impact of the final seg when it comes.

Performances in all stories are uniformly good and tech credits ditto. However, the lush lensing by Lai Yiu-fai (“2046”) in the Hong Kong section is miles ahead of its companions.

Black Night

Japan-Hong Kong-Thailand

Production: A Movie Eye Entertainment (Japan)/Filmko Entertainment (Hong Kong)/Five Star. Production Co. (Thailand) production. (International sales: Filmko, Hong Kong.) Produced by Taku Ushiyama. Executive producers, Taku Ushiyama, Kaz Tadashiki, Chareon Iamphungporn, Harvey Wong. Co-producers, Lim Young Chien, Aphiradee Iamphungporn, Katherine Lee; associate producers, Yumiko Takebe, Kiatkamon Iamphungporn, Janet Chun.
Next Door: Directed by Patrick Leung. Screenplay, Leung, Charlie Choi.
Dark Hole: Directed by Takahiko Akiyama. Screenplay, Ako Yamamoto.
The Lost Memory: Directed by Thanit Jitnikul. Screenplay, Titipong Chaisati.

Crew: Next Door: Camera (color), Lai Yiu-fai; editor Jeff Cheung; music, Tommy Wai; art director, Alex Mok; sound (Dolby Digital), Chen Chi-kien.
Dark Hole: Camera (color), Motoki Kobayashi; editor, Shuichi Kakesu; music, Masanori Adachi, Karin Nakano; art director, Satoru Ito; sound (Dolby Digital), Atsushi Sugiyama.
The Lost Memory: Camera (color), Vardhana Vunchuplou; editor, Sunit Asawanikul; music, Soothorn Yodsrithong; art director, Somphoch Salugkum; sound (Dolby Digital), Sunit Asawanikul. Reviewed at Hong Kong Film Festival, April 5, 2006. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: The Lost Memory: Pitchanart Sakhakorn, Kajornsak Ratananisai, Nutsha Bootsri. (Thai dialogue)
Next Door: Annie Liu, Dylan Kuo, Race Wong. (Mandarin, Cantonese dialogue)
Dark Hole: Asaka Seto, Takashi Kashiwabara, Tomorowo Taguchi. (Japanese dialogue)

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