Yep… I know… it’s been a loooooong dry month here at the ol’ Litterbox. But… I’ve roused my lazy butt into action and so we finally have another Review, and this time out it’s an honest-to-goodness Asian ghost story… 2014’s Vietnamese film, “Đoạt Hồn” or as it’s known around these parts, “Hollow”. Yep. Been a while since we saw one of these. 😉
It’s synopsis reads as follows: “Chi, a rebellious 18 year old girl, returns to her home town on the day her rich stepfather, Huy, makes a generous donation to a village temple. At the celebration, her sister, Ai, drowns in a nearby river. When Ai’s uncle Thuc, who is a policeman, travels to a village morgue to identify Ai’s dead body, the girl sits up, very much alive. Thuc brings Ai home to her family, but he doesn’t tell them about her death. Everything seems to be happy until Ai shows signs of spiritual possession. A shaman is brought in to perform an exorcism, but she is unsuccessful, claiming, “Your daughter is not possessed by a dead spirit, but by a lost soul of a living person”. To investigate the source of her sister’s possession, Chi journeys to the village where Ai was found. What she discovers is a community victimized by human trafficking and child prostitution. There is another little girl, whose tragedy is tied to Ai’s death by a secret, and a vengeful spirit that follows Chi home, and destroys her entire family, as dark secrets unravel and evil unleashes its true visage.”
So, if a story of ghostly possession, Vietnamese style, intrigues you, then all you have to do is “Read On” o’ Gentle Visitors and let your favorite movie watching Catgirl Princess give you all the details worth knowing… 🙂
I don’t get to watch a whole lot of Vietnamese films. Strange given that I pretty much watch every scary movie to come out of Asia that I can lay me little paws on, Problem is Vietnam isn’t exactly a huge DVD producing country… and for some goofy reason, I never seem to find other versions of their stuff readily available from the Hong Kong, Taiwanese, or Malaysian markets. Much of the reason for that I suppose is the rather primitive state of movie production in that nation compared to neighboring countries. Still… once in a while one of their films manages to crack the festival circuit and get enough good publicity to get noticed. Such was the way of it with this one.
It gets going with a scene on a bridge… and a beaten bloody young woman at the end of her rope, ready to end her misery with one lonely plunge into the river to end it all. Who is she? Don’t worry… we’ll find out soon enough.
Our real heroine is actually another young woman Chi (played by Nguyễn Hồng Ân) as she arrives at her home village to attend a ceremony at the local temple where her wealthy step-father is being honored for a gift he’s made to the temple. She’s a rebellious young girl with a real chip on her shoulder and more than a little dislike for her step-father Huy (played by Trần Bảo Sơn) … who sends out creepy pervy vibes every time pretty Chi is around him. It’s the main reason she’s off at boarding school… at least until she gets dismissed for her behavioral issues. At home, she’s seen more as an embarrassment to her mother Diep (played by Nguyễn Ngọc Hiệp) and the only one who seems to love her for herself is her adorable younger half-sister Ai (played by Thanh Mỹ). Even that comes with trouble… as cute little Ai is absolutely doted on by her father and mother… pushing Chi further from her family as the years go by. There’s also something else wrong… something nagging at Chi and worrying her to distraction. We wont find out exactly what that is right away… but trust Neko when I tell you it’s pretty darn important.
Anyways… Chi gets saddled with babysitting her little sister… too fidgety to stay still for the solemn ceremonies on hand, and in a moment of annoyed distraction loses track of her. Bad, bad, bad… as it gives some evil spirit in the nearby river the chance to seize little Ai and drag her screaming into the river to drown. There’s a desperate search, of course, but to no avail… and naturally Chi gets the blame for letting Ai slip from her sight.
A week passes… and then Chi’s uncle Thức, a police inspector, (played by Jayvee Mai) is summoned to a local morgue to identify her body, recently pulled from the river. She’s been pronounced dead… and most certainly looks pretty darn deceased… But… in a freaky twist, miraculously it seems little Ai isn’t dead after all.. Or is she?…
Well… apparently you don’t let a little thing like a missing week or so submerged in a river stand between you and the return of a beloved family member, so without so much as a confused look from the morgue attendant, Thức is allowed to take her home to her gratefully relieved family.
This of course is where our film pretty much abandoned all normality and heads deep into the land of shadows. It’s amazing to me how quickly everybody figures out some… thing… has a hold of little Ai and how perfectly normal it is to just get a shaman to jump right in and start trying to fix things. There’s lots of neat local religious and magical practices on hand as they try to exorcise Ai. Problem is… they just understand exactly what’s going on… and by the time they finally do unearth the nasty stuff lurking behind it all Chi and everybody are in for some pretty nasty surprises. Although I wont spoil things for you by giving up the goodies, plot-wise, let’s just say that Chi’s instinctual dislike of her stepfather is most definitely deserved…
Ultimately our story hangs on a very nifty notion in Vietnamese belief that you can be haunted not only by the dead, but by the living as well… but once we get into it, revenge is revenge. Regardless of who needs it. Trust me… the victims in this one really do need it too. Badly. There’s some truly sick stuff going on involving human trafficking, forced sex slavery, and child abuse behind it all.
Surprisingly, all this is told in a very slick, very well done film. It’s basically the same sort of “revenge melodrama” that forms the basis of most Asian horror, but I wasn’t expecting to find such a well made film coming from Vietnam featuring it. With few exceptions, most of Vietnamese film output these days is fairly low budget efforts aimed at a very unsophisticated local audience looking for the weird mix of lowbrow potty humor and paper thin plots featuring cheap effects and little or no cinematography or acting that please them on a basic level. “Đoạt Hồn” is a whole other critter… and at least as far as this wee lady is concerned, easily equals the level of mid-level Thai horror efforts, even exceeding them at times.
Seriously. It’s that good. Definitely worth a look if Asian horror is your thing. I give this one a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5. Now… unfortunately actually seeing it might be a challenge for you all, Gentle Visitors. I’ve been looking about for a DVD… any DVD… subtitles or not. To no avail. So how did yours truly get her chance to watch it? Well… let’s just say Youtube has some surprising stuff that pops up on it once in a while… at least until the “powers that be” notice anyways… English subtitles and all. 😉 (And no…. I won’t be linking it here directly. You’ll have to just go looking for it yourselves… so there… 😉 )
But… I’m really serious about wanting a DVD of this one. Somebody take notice… and get your butts busy producing one. I’d buy one… and so would all the other Asian horror nuts out there like a certain goofy lil’ Catgirl. Otherwise, this is another little gem that will languish in it’s country of origin and be quickly forgotten by anybody outside of there. There are too many nifty films that this happen to without letting “Đoạt Hồn” become one of them.
Yep, there’s a Trailer alright… and here it goes!