Our latest review this time out takes us to HK for a look at director Oxide Pang’s new suspense film, “Sleepwalker 3D”, the latest foreign horror to jump on the 3D fad bandwagon. Thank goodness… unlike a few other recent 3D efforts, I was still able to pick it up in a much more eye strain friendly 2D format on HK region 3.
The synopsis goes like this: “Yee is an ordinary woman living a mundane life as the owner of a small garment piecework shop. Over the last 2 years, she has been bothered by a repeated dream, a dream in which she walks alone through a wasteland with a doubt of the mystery being buried underneath. With every passing night, Yee’s nightmares are becoming more and more real to her. Sometimes she finds her hands and bedside stained with mud in the morning. She can’t help thinking that she has really walked on that wasteland and killed someone there while sleepwalking… As Yee crosses path with Sergeant Au who is investigating the case of Yee’s missing ex-husband, Yee tells her the details and confesses that she believes she may have committed a murder in her sleep. Following the clues hidden in Yee’s dream, Sgt. Au leads her team to the crime scene, however, the body claimed to be buried underneath is nowhere to be found…. “
I haven’t heard much good stuff about this one, to be honest, but I’ve always found the Pang Brothers to be quirky and interesting for the most part, so I was willing to take a chance with this one. Think it’s possibly one soon to be on your own “to watch” list too? Then by all means “Read On” and let Neko sort out just what sort of movie experience you might just be getting yourself into.
I’ve enjoyed the Pang Brothers films ever since I first caught 2002’s “The Eye”, and although there have been a few films since then that have been less than equal to that one, I’ve always maintained my lookout for anything new they might put out… just in case. This one… a solo effort by brother Oxide alone, and featuring a lead performance by his actress wife Angelica Lee, is unfortunately an odd little film that tries it’s hardest to be a supernatural horror tale made within the recent restrictions placed upon the HK film industry by the communist party “powers-that-be” prohibiting any real use of ghosts or the supernatural in most newer film productions. A ghost story with no ghosts? Now that’s a particularly thorny task to accomplish…. This sort of story problem crops up in Hindi films too where there is a real attempt to sideline the supernatural as being merely a tool to trick the stupid and unwary. Mostly… unless you are doing a detective story or police procedural requiring such a plot element then that sort of foolishness normally ends up making a dreadful mess out of the resulting movie.
I wish I could say Oxide was up to the task… but having sat through this one I can tell you his best efforts seem only to have resulted in a slick looking and well filmed story that truly wrestles to be coherent in the face of these constrictions. Throw on the desire to make this also be a “3D film” when clearly it’s not needed and I’m sorry to say “Sleepwalker” is left struggling to work.
A number of basic plot problems are to blame. Firstly, and most annoying… at least from my own standpoint… is the “twist” involving the character of Yee (played by Angelica Lee) around which the whole story hangs. Yep… it’s “Spoiler Alert” time…. as we can’t dig into this one without actually giving it all away. Part of our story involves the kidnap and murder of a little boy… a case that parallels the same kidnap and murder of Yee’s own daughter some 2 years ago. “Conveniently” Yee has blocked all of that trauma from her memory, but once she starts prowling around the deserted city streets at night she’s never ever suspected of being behind the new abduction and murder. Heck… she’s followed back home one night during one of her somnambulist outings by the lead detective assigned to the case and then just left alone after she claims to have no idea what she was up to. Huh?…. That actually passes as detective work in HK? But wait…. there’s even more stupidity afoot…. this same detective was also the one assigned to Yee’s case 2 years ago… and despite the obvious similarities between the two, she make no effort to link the crimes until “crazy woman Yee” continues to pester her about maybe having killed her missing ex-husband while sleepwalking. Want something even goofier? How about the current crime… the missing boy is her own nephew. Yeah… like there’s no “conflict of interest” there, eh…. I mean… what police department worth a damn would let an officer investigate any crime involving their own sister’s family? Apparently the HKPD would…. or at least this movie would have us believe so anyway.
Getting the sense this whole mess relies on a very tangled and somewhat confusing web of rather implausible notions all conveniently “just happening” at just the right moment? You’d be right. Throw in a depressed master hypnotist with some tragic back-story about why his wife is in a coma that doesn’t figure into the story at all…. or ever get resolved… and you’d be in need of some serious therapy yourself to figure out why he was needed to move our story along.
Now… most of the acting is pretty good here throughout… given the mess of a story, and Angelica Lee does make the character of Yee as sympathetic and believable as possible given the plot, but by the mid point of our story I’m thinking most of you Gentle Visitors will be struggling to stay interested. Much of this is very much because of the conflict our film has wavering back and forth between “supernatural psychic tale” and “psychological crime thriller”. It just plain can’t decide which way to go… so it tries to ride both horses at the same time. We all know that just doesn’t work. It just makes the rider sore and confuses the poor horses….. 😉
Hmmmm. All in all, there are some good moments scattered throughout, but they are collectively too few to rescue “Sleepwalker” from remaining a fairly forgettable exercise in the genre of psychological thrillers. It’s been done before… and it’s been done better. Without having to resort to 3D…..
Given this, Neko gives “Sleepwalker 3D” a tepid 3 “Meows” out of 5 for having the glossy look of a good thriller, the excellent acting of a good thriller, but also the plot of a cut rate afternoon melodramatic “soap opera” with all it’s fake feeling story “coincidences” and implausible elements holding it together. The Region 3 DVD by Universe is bare-bones but adequate, with good solid English subtitles and can be found for about 15$ US should you actually want a look for yourself. Oh well…. they can’t all be winners.
Trailer? Yep… you can guess Neko’s got that covered as always, and here it goes.