Hong Kong horror/comedy cinema, for me, is like an addictive drug: intense or mellow, it always gets me high. If you're a fan of the genre, or Fok or Wong, Don't Open Your Eyes is a bizarre film packed with multiple commercial and exploitative elements, guaranteed to surprise the curious.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Clarence Fok's Don't Open Your Eyes (2006)
"You bastard! I'm an evil man and I'll become an evil ghost. I'll come back for you!" These ain't words about Kenny but words from the dying lips of Killer (Roderick Lam). Killer has just eaten a clip of bullets from Sargeant Seven Yiu (Alex Fong), who auspiciously ran into Killer on a rooftop in a t.v. antenna fiasco. Seven was assigned to find Killer and his crew. Earlier in the day, a ransom pick-up from a Killer kidnapping went horribly wrong and involved a police officer's death. The dead police officer was filling in for Seven during the sting; however, Seven was too drunk that morning to show up for work. Lickety-split, Seven's giving up the bottle, as he tells his partner Keung (Sammy Leung) as they leave the mortuary. Madame Tsui arrives after Killer's killing and pulls Seven and Leung off duty and reassigns the duo to the Seventh precinct for clerical work. Seven gets a text message from his sister about his Auntie Seventh: she's dying and has some important words for Seven. At her bedside, Seven listens as Auntie explains: Auntie was the seventh child of her generation and so is Seven. When the seventh member of the previous generation dies, the seventh member of the younger generation acquires immediately a special gift: "ghost-eyes," the ability to see spectres walking and interacting on the human plane. I guess Seven is going to see Killer again whether he likes it or not in Clarence Fok's Don't Open Your Eyes. (2006).Don't Open Your Eyes is a Jing Wong production (who also possibly scripted; I could find no information on its credited screenwriter, G.K. Fung), and the film has all of the hallmarks: slapstick humor and farce, sometimes offensive, sex, violence, and stunts, and this being a horror film, some scares, maybe. The director, Clarence Fok, is probably best known to Western Asian cult film fans for his Category III classic, Naked Killer (1993) (also a Wong production with Chingmy Yau and Simon Yam). Some of my other Fok favorites are The Iceman Cometh (1999), Her Name is Cat (1998), and Century of the Dragon (1999). Fok is no stranger to Hong Kong exploitation cinema, and he and Wong are kindred spirits. Both Wong and Fok really have a command of a low-budget: it's not as if they are able to hide their budgets and make their films look more glossy and slick; rather, their films feel as if the low budget is embraced and celebrated: few locations, multiple camera angles, and fortuitous lighting. There is a real spontaneity within the cinema, as if the Fok and Wong are making up the scenes right before shooting and the actors react and have fun. Don't Open Your Eyes is a recipe for uneven cinema or a bizarre melange of sequences.The seven motif drives the horror within Don't Open Your Eyes (as if you couldn't tell from the plot set up). Wong regular Wah Yuen plays Uncle Bing who is the supernatural consultant to the Seventh Precinct (a job, if qualified for, I would heartily accept and perform to the best of my abilities). Yuen delivers the best supernatural scenes, especially with his daughter, Pearl (Monie Tung), who's often possessed by rogue spirits. Yuen's Bing tells Fong's Seven that he'll help him with his supernatural conundrum, and at Bing's home he'll summon Wai (the dead police officer) to help him. The seance scene is pretty cool and atmospheric, and like a lot of supernatural HK cinema, there's a real emphasis and detail with the rituals. Bing prays to General Kwan, and there's a fantastic scene later in the film where Bing dresses up to stop Killer. This scene follows the most offensive scene of the film which is made all the more disturbing by some cheap comedy by Leung's Keung (whose character is the primary vehicle for all of the film's comedy). However, a Jing Wong film without an offensive joke would be short-changing the viewer, cheap joke or not. Killer's crew, Lotus, Lun, and his lady, Ling, provide some brutal and nasty gangster action, machine gun and machete-style, to balance the horror hijinx and humor. The action sequences are fast and intense with an emphasis on bloody squibs (old-school exploitation style). Jo Kuk plays Fiona, and she and Fong provide a sweet and sentimental romance within Don't Open Your Eyes.