Black Night (2006)
Directed by: Patrick Leung, Akiyama Takahiko & Thanit Jitnukul
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"It worked so well the first time... let's do it again! Referring to the Pan-Asian project Three that paired up Korean director Kim Ji-Wun (A Tale of Two Sisters), Thailand's Nonzee Nimibutr (Jan Dara) and Hong Kong's Peter Chan (Comrades, Almost A Love Story) to each head their own horror/horror-esque short story, Black Night could be perceived as creators digging deeper in the barrel for available directing talent. BUT.. considering Three was a largely uneven product (1*), with the Hong Kong segment "Going Home" being the sole slam dunk in the package, and across the directing board there is quality already achieved on each respective filmography, there's a logical reason to re-hash if you will.
"Next Door" (Patrick Leung - Hong Kong)
Although nowadays sticking himself into standard to worthwhile light projects such as La Brassiere and Good Times, Bed Times rather than dark and playful fare such as Beyond Hypothermia and Task Force, Patrick Leung takes his second stab at a ghost story after Demi-Haunted but elicits no feeling other than that of the bland and the basic. His short sees Jane (Annie Liu - Exodus) return home from Taiwan to be with her boyfriend Joe (Dylan Kuo - Embrace Your Shadow) but something is suspicious and yep... da player Joe has had someone on the side. Specifically Hosie (Race Wong - Cocktail) in the next door apartment. Since this story is also set during the Ghost Festival, visions of a little boy starts to haunt Jane and the girl from next door appears, covered in water and looking VERY pale...
Since you're only given 30 minutes or so, I don't blame Patrick Leung for setting up characters the easy/basic way but you should be able to expect some interest to be drawn out of it. No such thing as the what turns out to be a little, apparently emotional love triangle lacks interest. When you also can't make generic matters such as scenes taking place in the on paper atmospheric settings of the apartment block hallways, there's nothing to embrace indeed. Leung does deserve kudos during his climax for a minute or two as he dips neatly into the macabre and intense while also shooting a very effective death scene for one of the key characters. We barely log "Next Door" in our memory bank though and move onto...
"Dark Hole" (Akiyama Takahiko - Japan)
Water has a recurring place in Black Night so the combined filmmaking seems to have settled on it as an image to be injected into the respective scripts, despite the title Dark Water being taken. Akiyama Takahiko (Hinokio) raises the quality bar and utilizes the condensed format quite well in a story that probably couldn't have survived feature length as matters are possibly a bit too silly to stretch out. Asaka Seto plays Yuki who is haunted by images of her childhood but is also known to have suppressed them. The death of her mother, the death of a bully at school, visions of these very dead people plus recently Akai the security guard at the aquarium where she works, and the story of her "indescribable" pet Hyu sees her starting to visit Dr. Kawai (Tomorowo Taguchi). Having supportive husband Satoichi (Takashi Kashiwabara) by her side and involved in talks with the doctor, theories are brought forth but the truth is more horrifying than that...
With only one movie under his belt and credits as visual effect art director on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Akiyama clearly has an agenda and goes to work logging images. But intriguing they definitely are from the very top, with an eye, a sewer and grainy horror visions being clues dropped. And during these 30 minutes, Akiyama proves that a mystery will propel matters forward when time isn't allowed for depth. Consciously there's no edge of your seat pace here which is fine but one has to direct criticism towards Akiyama's overly apparent nature to please visually. But we still take his bait as the story of Hyu becomes clearer but suitably never explained. Perhaps that's the better choice as "Dark Hole" could've gone down laughable routes had it not been this short.
"The Lost Memory" (Thanit Jitnukul - Thailand)
Prang (Pitchanart Sakakorn) survives a car accident but the head trauma has caused memory loss. Settling down in her natural environment at home together with her son Sun (Athipan Chantapichai), fragments are coming back slowly. Among others her friendship with Praew (Nutsha Bootsri) but she's informed by the security guard at Praew's apartment block that she's died the night before in a swimming pool. On top of that, Prang and Praew's friendship ended badly as the father of Sun, Wit (Kajonsak Ratananisai) slept with Praew and at home, there are strange visions of water...
Effectively diving right into this short via fragmented shots but also fitting ones as our main character struggles with memories, part of "The Lost Memory" is almost too slow and resembling Patrick Leung's effort quite closely in many regards. But while not saving Black Night in any way, director Thanit Jitnukul (Bang Rajan, Art Of The Devil) devotes himself all the way to the end. Issues of torn apart friendships, scars never healed and vengeful spirits dishing out both good and bad rewards depending on what your doings in the equation, is engaging for the moment but probably more so because you've learnt during the 90 minutes that Black Night never came to log any high standard.
In very select parts we're witnessing style across the board that is demo reel stuff for good reasons but going back to Applause Pictures as headed by Peter Chan and their Three-franchise if you will, they are still the current kings on the horror anthology block. Bring on more of these projects though because going Pan-Asia on the various audiences only accustomed to THEIR Asia is always refreshing. Although Black Night fares quite´bad, the positive is indeed the initiative.
Joy Sales presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The various styles and colours are presented quite sufficiently even though softness overall is an issue.
Audio options are Cantonese/Mandarin/Japanese/Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 and Cantonese/Mandarin/Japanese/Thai DTS 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.
The English subtitles got an error or two but are on the whole fully coherent and easily readable. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. In terms of extras, we get the trailer for Black Night and a Chinese subtitled only Making Of (2 minutes, 1 second).
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) When Three... Extremes followed in 2004, the gathered talent of Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan and Park Chan-Wook made sure quality was kept high. Personally, Chan's "Dumplings" I thought ruled supreme out of that bunch and especially so since it had a separate, well fleshed out feature length release.