Dating Death (2004)

Directed by: Herman Yau
Written by: Ng Man-Fai, Edmond Wong & Mak Ho-Bon
Producer: Raymond Wong
Starring: Stephy Tang, Edwin Siu, Theresa Fu, Deep Ng, Don Li, Ricky Fan, Horace Lee & Tats Lau

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Back in the isolated, island house where their friend Ken died a year before, the living from that incident have received invitations from their dead friend. And indeed, something ghostly is in the air and seems to looking for revenge..

Hong Kong pop stars of the new generation have become highly undistinguishable, unless you're called Eason Chan, and I doubt the troupe gathered together for Herman Yau's Dating Death have achieved elite status in multiple mediums. These are teens, automatically slipping on a banana peel into movies and PERHAPS, but in fact not, Herman Yau decided to raise a little hell by pushing these untested profiles. Indeed, in fact...not! A splash of colour during a few minutes out of 90 doesn't qualify them or Dating Death as anything.

Something teeny is amidst us and Herman Yau's mission to create a haunting, isolated, tense and emotional horror-mystery can be smelled from miles away. Budget speaks against him although Yau normally doesn't stop for doubt due to it but his highly non-distinct cast does its best to erase any form of attempted distinction. Apparently we need to know and care for characters in order to appreciate the horror shenanigans here but knowing early most of Yau's low-fi creations on display, it goes down the drain with the rest of the turds of cinema. We end up rooting for the opposition instead and oppose Yau too.

*sarcasm*Mighty themes*sarcasm ends* of love, jealousy, rivalry form the basis of it all and its setting during Halloween is obviously a plant if there ever was one. Set on an isolated island, in a house looking spoooooky come nighttime, it can very much be argued Yau is using the utmost low clichés of the chosen genre in order to add fun. I wouldn't say he's reaching satire but the obvious makes for obvious, amusing observations. Scare tactics remain ultra-cheap with quick-cuts ruling but in a movie you know to expect the low out of, the odd, sole cut can make for a split second of actual dread. But it's over quick and for at least 70 minutes Yau faces using tools at his disposal that won't take an oft used template to some unashamedly dumb but fun places. Heck, even Tats Lau plays it straight but boy do we beg him to be the extrovert. The sole fun we get is an odd closing image of a take that stays on Lau's stomach!

No, Yau's trendy youths in fine, trendy hair won't have any viewer engaging themselves, despite the attempt to make the strong circle of friends becoming frail via the ghost of Ken potentially slaying for revenge. The magician does have some evil eyes at times so maybe that's a hint of a twist... whatever. But it has to be said Yau does amp pace, colour, gore and clichés to a slightly more miles per hour degree in a way that makes Dating Death almost take on momentum during its last 20 minutes. When truths are revealed, Yau lets loose some of his gooey tendencies and despite dodgy CGI not helping scenes of decapitation, it's actually a 100% fun increase we're witnessing. Does it matter? No. Does the sole fun satire of the film in the form of some of the respective males trying out Buddhism, Christianity and martial arts against the ghostly danger get a followed through? Neh. It's all Yau striking out badly in his low-budget ways. But being the workhorse that he is, Dating Death represents an opportunity not to be proud over but one that Herman left behind come wrap-time to pursue other potential hit and miss projects. We STILL kind of like that mentality.

The DVD:

Tai Seng has repackaged Mei Ah's Hong Kong dvd for distribution in America and it's presented in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The consciously drab, grainy image contains mild damage and relatively little sharpness but does the job considering the flick.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track features decent stereo separation but won't blow anyone away. Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also included.

The English subtitles has a fair number of gaffs but are overall very coherent. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. Extras include a 10 minute, standard Making Of (no subtitles) and the trailer.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson