Well, Saturday’s Movie Nite at my apartment wasn’t a total loss… I managed to watch the new Chinese ghost movie, “The Deserted Inn”, and now I’m ready to tell you all about it too.
The simple synopsis for it reads: “Kenny Kwan stars as a music composer whose career is on the rocks and retreats to a deserted town looking for inspiration to write his next hit song. After checking into a local inn, he begins to experience nightmares that push him to the brink of insanity until he unveils the dark secret of the innkeeper.”
There’s a bit more to it, of course, but to learn that, you guys are just going to have to follow Neko’s lead and “Read On” !!
So…. Basically composer Meng Fan (Kenny Kwan) scores a big hit by writing one incredibly popular song. Then he hits a Writing Block that sends both his career as well as his personal life straight into the ol’ dumpster. Needing to revive his failed inspiration, he abandons his girlfriend and goes alone on a vacation to the remote and nearly deserted rural village of Huang Cun. There he checks into the “Deserted Inn”, just so he can stay in the room that has an antique bed dating back to the Ming Dynasty and that was once part of a legendary doomed romance story. Once there, Meng experiences many strange events and is haunted by nightmares of that tragic story as he tries to capture the lonely love song of the bed’s previous owner.
The village is certainly quaint… looking just like a piece of Chinese history frozen in time. I swear, one of the little stone bridges looked just like a set right from “Come Drink With Me”…. making me wonder if the filmmakers used some old Shaw Brothers backlot for this… It really works as a locale for a ghost story, and it’s almost utter lack of people only intensifies that feeling. This is where the film is at it’s best. Add in some beautifully filmed flashbacks to the Ming dynasty and a sad, melodramatic soundtrack and we’re talking some serious atmosphere here. I just wish it actually went somewhere…..
You see, much of the ghostly stuff just frames a couple of stories here…. Meng Fan’s relationship with his girlfriend and the love story about the Innkeeper and his wife… (whom we never see, except in flashback…. you just know where that’s leading, right?). He’s a pretty strange guy, that Innkeeper…. and of course that means trouble. It always does.
Let’s just say… I didn’t feel much sympathy for any of the characters…. Not Meng Fan, nor his poor suffering abandoned girlfriend, not the Innkeeper….. not even our legendary beauty. There’s the trouble with this one.
For the story to work, you sorta have to feel for SOMEBODY…… and ultimately these characters come across, at least to me, as being fairly selfish and self involved. That doesn’t make for a good romance story… or a ghost story either.
The worst thing has to be the ending…. Remember the recent Chinese Government statement about how “stories centering on supernatural horror and mysticism were no longer acceptable”.…? Well, looks like this one had to do some serious shuffling about to pass the censorship on those films. It completely invalidates the story…. even the ending that might have made it a passable slasher film. Instead we get a tacked on narration to wind things up that just ruins the film but good.
So… while I loved the cinematography… the sets…. and the image of the dead girl’s face framed by fallen leaves as depicted soooo well on the poster, I have to say that Neko can only give “The Deserted Inn” a 2 “Meows” out of 5. Oh… and Neko now feels the Chinese owe me a ghost story too….. so get to it!
Oh, yes. Lest I forget… here’s the Trailer for you all….