Possessed (2002)

Directed by: Billy Chung
Written by: Paul Chung
Producers: Paul Chung & Billy Chan
Starring: Julian Cheung, Ozawa Maju, Tse Kwan-Ho, Eddy Ko, Lam Suet & Sam Lee

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Minako (Ozawa Maju) leads the TV-show "Mysterious Files" together with James (Julian Chueng - A Mob Story), a man she is still in love with. When their ratings go down, they act upon the chance to film a real life exorcism Reverend Yeung (Tse Kwan-Ho - The Mad Phoenix) has been asked to perform. Getting the desired result for the inflicted girl and the TV station, in fact this possession started with truck driver Man Li (Sam Lee - Made In Hong Kong) and is part of a pattern that all involved has something to do with...

A stab at echoing The Exorcist and its more emotional complexities, when you get Billy Chung (Love To Kill, Paramount Motel, Hong Kong Bronx) you at best expect something sufficient but dedication within that modesty in a way. Possessed is a beast of that nature and has some success by treating its story and characters with care and depth. It may be forced care and only mild depth but care and depth nonetheless.

As soap opera-like the entry into the story is, with past relationships and jealousy being prime ingredients, writer Paul Chung thankfully creates characters that come from very different walks of life. Being a puzzle but a fairly complex one about why we get so many different types occupying the frame, of course there's a connection here and Billy Chung keeps us interested to find out what that is. Much due to how he for instance plays out Sam Lee's possession since it's being inflicted upon regular, working class people in real environments. It's a very important key and logically Chung also brings us fragments of spookiness designed as building blocks. Even sparse with how he portrays the notion of possession, throughout there's very little effects used (some clumsy CGI and only minor make-up basically) which is actually a sign of Chung challenging himself on a low budget to again scare as much as he can within an ordinary setting. This is even a great, big stab at realism and the effect is involving within the grade you expect Chung to clinch at best. The build all the way up till the final frame then? I would say Chung's work is even throughout as the secrets are gradually revealed and character relationships become more clear.

There's basically a running theme of loneliness and lost love in display, starting with Minako as the stranger (still after a few years) in a foreign land and hopelessly in love while Reverend Yeung is the Max Von Sydow of our piece as he's lost his faith in God after tragedy has struck him in the past. So ache comes together in a battle against a vengeful spirit and the dramatic work remains evenly handled throughout without knocking seasoned drama veterans (or anyone) out of their chair.

That is still slightly more than I expected and Billy Chung's stylistic work is basically equal to old, familiar tools being employed because there's barely any room for new interpretation of horror here. So there's jumps via usage of sound effects and a good ol' sequence of blood in the sink but amazingly enough he has quite high respect for these familiar staples and puts decent dread into them. Stillness and fragmented horror applies to the otherwise style-heavy Chung in his 2002 work here and Possessed would indeed at best only be a minor blimp within the whole Hong Kong cinema output but blimps in Billy Chung's filmography is comforting. He's created decent escapism... AGAIN.

The DVD (Tai Seng):

Video: 1.72:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.

Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0. Japanese is used for a few scenes on the Cantonese track but the Mandarin option is a full on dub.

Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.

Extras: Star's Files for Tse Kwan-Ho, Julian Cheung and Sam Lee. Fairly thorough breakdown of each career and Cheung's entry even has listings of his awards and accolades as a singer. Trailers for Possessed, My Wife Is 18, If You Care... and The Conman 2002 are also included.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson