Yes, I Can See Dead People (2008)

Directed by: David Lee
Written by: Frankie Tam, Lui Koon-Nam & Ham Chun-Yu
Producer: Ivy Kong
Starring: Steven Cheung, Mandy Chiang, Kris Gu, Kathy Yuen, Sun Li-Min, Amy Chum & Lau Kong

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You're new and practice makes perfect in some folk's cases so start out with something easy, something not original and while the eyes of an audience may not be instantly turned towards you, stand firm and make a "seen that, been there"-flick but with firm belief to make it your own. So a "I see dead people"-flick it is then, to be more precise and off debut director David Lee went. A rocky piece from someone clearly in love with genre content a bit too much, Yes, I Can See Dead People actually insists so much that it manages to find a footing as a terror-piece but also fairly genuine emotions has its place.

In the off-beat, morbid and darkly comical opening we sense something already, mainly that of non-automatic filmmaking being present. Lee establishes Nam's (Steven Cheung) powers to communicate with spirits but he is someone who up till now just kinda hangs out with his diseased friends and closes his eyes to the actual horrific sights presented before him. What you can chose not to see, you don't know of. Yep, that statement rings true of false in actuality as the spirit world for some reason imposes on Nam's brother Tung (Kris Gu) and eventually it threatens the whole family stability. A family with the gift in Nam, going back generations...

Nam's voice over perfectly complements that he's taken a step back from what his powers actually are and it's a welcome angle taken by Lee and his writing team. This doesn't equal an inappropriate light side as opposed to the dark one that will follow. The transition works but the but's of this picture is that for the longest of time we're just experiencing quick cut (via audio and visuals) scare-tactics that is not really scary nor means anything when there's very little story strands introduced. It feels like David Lee punches about a hundred times to little effect before the actual depth and span of the story reveals itself. Thank god it does because not only are matters unaffecting, the whole picture is designed in such a foreboding manner that it's literally TOO dark. Yes, we CAN'T see dead people. And the kids standing there, they're just in our mind kids standing there. Yawn.

Clearly Lee presents rookie dedication however but when finally expanding the notions of superstition (which is of course a matter close to his audience) and the flashbacks that actually concerns a whole host of spirits with matters not laid to rest, an affecting style and story begins to form. Lee shoots green, step prints, uses black and white and probably is manipulative in actuality. But when making the Nam family the main focal point, talking of how the inherited power got lost and the way Nam has to step up the responsibility, Yes, I Can See Dead People hits notes of intense terror (now we know what we're looking at) and heartache that may on a second viewing reveal acceptance in the former half of the flick. Right now, David Lee, his non-distinct cast of youngsters (who do well enough though) and crew are welcomed to the Hong Kong cinema block for real. No red carpet treatment yet though

The DVD:

Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.74:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Print is clean, suitably sharp and presents colour-design well.

Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 6.1 EX, Cantonese DTS 6.1 ES and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 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 are generally very coherent but clearly stumbles a bit at times in the grammar department. Nothing a sensible mind wouldn't be able to work through though. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

The trailer and an English subtitled Making Of (10 minutes, 45 seconds) make up the extra content. The Making Of has the actors discussing characters, approach to acting and development while director Lee talks of working with actor's real personalities when creating characters. Minor info but still info.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson