Haunted Office (2002)
Directed by: Marco Mak, Bowie Lau & Not A Woman
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I'm in a completist mood, possibly a bit bored because the prospect of yet another Hong Kong made, cheap horror anthology doesn't make the pulse rise. Possibly in anger though as I thought the LOOOONNNG Troublesome Night-series had discouraged all other quickie filmmaking of this kind. But nooooo... Gathered up under directors Marco Mak (Colour Of The Truth, A Gambler's Story), Bowie Lau (Deadly Camp) and Not A Woman (a pseudonym having provided writing for other Marco Mak films such as Cop On A Mission) are what can and should be considered a minor elite troupe of actors. But throughout the three story structure, sharing the same setting of one office, how does respected faces Jordan Chan, Stephen Fung and Shu Qi fare? And does the continuing completion of my Marco Mak library REALLY mean Haunted Office should be visited? Some things you can judge beforehand... or can you?
Matters do look promising as the first story (although the three ones do interconnect and pass each other literally throughout the movie) sees clichéd visuals (the office setting) being something of a playground op for Marco Mak, whose hands are very much all over the Karen Mok segment. She is Pat, a stock market analyst and soon the recipient of visions of a laughing office woman in one of the bathroom stalls. Right after, that particular co-worker is dead in her office. And the pattern repeats...
Haunted Office makes no secret of wanting to utilize the usual assortment of tools but in the case of Mak's segment, some of them are wisely turned into overdrive. It's a fair terror ride although a forced one too as the rather plain frame is enhanced via aggravating (in a good way) sound design, break up of frames, distorted frames and step printing. Heck, even water turns into blood at one point so you'll know the "original" territory worked with here. Creepy women and flickering lights later, it's overall a passable presentation that ends in one of those only logical in the ghost world-ways but not logical to anyone else so the final effect therefore isn't particularly creepy.
Perhaps it's Bowie Lau's turn next (judging by the order of directors as written on the print) but he and Not A Woman do the biggest interconnecting between stories. Or rather they show us them going on at the same time. Stephen Fung passes by the ending of our first segment and onto his new work on one of the floors as a toy designer. As many others have, he spots a creepy albino woman but also cutie pie Shan (Shu Qi). She is a bullied worker in a nearby department and as it turns out, under some form of blackmail from ghosts. Falling in love in the most corny of ways (meaning quickly), Fung's Ken decides to help out before Shan is consumed. Aside from some initial sweet chemistry between Fung and Shu Qi, here's a part of Haunted Office that doesn't see the plain frame being spiced up and story matters are painfully flat and dull too. Especially since it's almost impossible to care for the story and the twist to it all that might excuse the corny aspect as explained is recycled stuff without any gasping effect being present in the audience.
Jordan Chan as Richard have roamed the frame in an amusing manner now and again in the film and at the same time as Stephen Fung and Shu Qi, gets his spotlight. He badly runs his department in the office building and even pushes for long time, dedicated worker Mary (Helena Law) to be fired so no pension has to be paid. It's selfishness and loud behaviour without dedication to a long running business and it's coming back to haunt him... literally. As all of his co-workers, including Mary, dies in a car crash, they return as spirits to teach loudmouth Richard a lesson.
At least we get what's going on and Chan is fun working with these select beats but this story can't rival the best output (from Marco Mak) of Haunted Office even when it shows what is the common thread between the three. True, seeing some high division talent sink their teeth, albeit mildly into this one helps a suitably short running time to go by quickly and certainly it was worth ticking off another Marco Mak (short)work. But the fun pretty much ends there.
Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.81:1 approximately. A little print damage is present and the cheap frame doesn't make the visuals outstanding. Sufficient in all areas though.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 option opens up the front stage fairly well for heavier on-screen action and dialogue is clear. Other audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0.
The English subtitles comes with a few select grammar errors but are very coherent otherwise. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. Only extra is the trailer.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson