Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
A team of international scientists, led by a crippled egomaniac and helped by a streetwise and enigmatic cop, have actually managed to capture a ghost, in the hopes of harnessing its power of anti-gravity. But the ghost, a tortured and murdered little boy, is not going to take being held captive lightly!
Is it good movie?
From Tartan Asia Extreme comes this most excellent tale of ghostiness from Taiwan. Now, this is a little different from the typical Asian ghost flicks that we usually see (mostly from Japan). There is no strange fascination with flowing hair (now that's spooky!), the ghost child has normal sized eyes and does not make animal sounds, and our leads are two male anti-heroes as opposed to simpering teenage girls. While the story here is just as supernaturally inplausible as most asian fare is, Silk is grounded in pseudo-science and pulls off its creepy atmosphere and subtle scares with effectiveness and style.
One of the most interesting concepts that this movie has to offer is the "Menger Sponge", a microscopic creation that when sprayed on the eyes allows people to see ghosts. It can also be sprayed on objects and rooms to trap a ghost, and on bullets to wound one. Combine this with some trippy Matrix or CSI effects (loved it when the ghost pulled the souls out of things, even an apple!), and you've got some high-concept material going into this creepy flick. The ghost was nicely handled and very well done, despite the tired use of the same old Asian tale of a wronged spirit out for revenge.
Another fine part of Silk was the fact that while the ghost spoke, no one could hear him. This leads to the recruitment of Tung (Chen Chang, who played Lo 'Dark Cloud' from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), a cop who can read lips and probably the most interesting and complex character in the movie. His struggles with the ghost, and with it's captor Professor Hashimoto (brilliantly played by Yosuke Eguchi) are what make this multi-layered ghostly exploration piece so interesting to watch.
While the whole "anti-gravity" sub-plot was not well done, it did provide one of the creepier and effects heavy scenes of the film. Even with its flaws, the movie excelled, using them to heighten the atmosphere and keep the action flowing. That this is only the sophomore effort from director Chao-Bin Su (who had previously written the segment "Going Home" from the anthology Three Extremes II) just goes to show the level of expertise and storytelling skill that seems to abound in the world of Asian cinema. Very nicely done indeed, and a worthy addition to any Asian horror collection.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: Taiwanese/Mandarin/English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and subtitles in English.
No extras on this screener, but damn I would love to see the behind the scenes shite for this one!
At time subtle and haunting, and at others complex and fascinating, Silk is a great departure from the usual fare we are treated to over here by the J-Horror crowd. Tartan is bringing us some of the more original films made in the genre today, and this one (at least for me) stands above a lot of the rest simply for sheer inventiveness and downright coolness. With excellent performances by the cast, especially Chen Chang, and an ass-load of skill and artistry from director Chao-Bin Su, this is one Asian horror film that no one should pass up. A little cliched in places, but on the whole very highly recommended.