Review: SLEEPWALKER (Oxide Pang)
Even though Danny Pang (In Love With The Dead, Seven 2 One) made a few solid solo projects, Oxide Pang (Mon Seung, The Detective, The Detective 2, Basic Love, Som And Bank) remains the most talented of the two brothers. Oxide Pang has a certain visual flair that is virtually unmatched, even in a rather simple film like this he manages to put the most impressive shots on display, turning potentially dull scenes into real eye catchers.
Sleepwalker is a pretty straightforward thriller, infused with a little mystery and spiced up with the token horror influences during the first half. True horror aficionados shouldn't be expecting a return to Oxide's old horror habits though, while there are a few tense and menacing moments hidden away in Sleepwalkers, Oxide is just teasing, completely abandoning the horror aspect during the second half of the film. In the end the supernatural is kept to a minimum and serves the dramatic side of the story rather than turning it into typical horror fare.
Sleepwalker follows Yi, a young tailor who has trouble getting over the break-up with her ex-boyfriend. Yi's colleagues start noticing slight changes in her behavioral patterns, Yi herself is confronted with them when a police officer wakes her up at night, asking her what she was doing out late at night. Yi suspects she is sleepwalking and traps herself inside her own house, but it seems her unconsciousness isn't going to be fooled that easily. While Yi tries to figure out what the hell is going on, her own story starts to intertwine with that of a young mother looking for her missing child.
The film was released in 3D, but safe one rather tacky effect shot there isn't much that hints at the 3D aesthetic when watching the regular version. That's actually quite nice as there is nothing quite as annoying as noticing where certain 3D effects should've taken place. I can't really comment on the 3D itself, but I can say that the cinematography and art direction of Sleepwalker are top notch. Camera angles, use of light and use of color are all superb, resulting is some truly beautiful settings. The editing is equally effective, making this one looker of a film.
The soundtrack is atypically subdued. Normally The Pangs like loading their films with expressive and loud music, with Sleepwalker Oxide puts the score more in the background. It's a refreshing approach for Oxide, but the result isn't quite as shocking as I'd hoped. The score often fades away in the scenery and even though previous scores were often hit and miss, at least they granted their films some extra individuality. Not that the score here is bad, but it could've used some extra spice.
Sleepwalker sees Angelica Lee return to the world of the Pangs. Lee earned her fame by putting in a strong performance in the Pang's The Eye and it's nice to see her turn up in a Pang film once again. She's pretty effective playing confused characters and she clearly delivers. The film relies greatly on Lee's character as secondary roles are quite limited and don't get much time to shine. The acting is overall solid though, with no poor performances to be noted.
The trouble with Sleepwalker is that people will be expecting a great twist at the end and the film just doesn't deliver. Around halfway through Oxide starts revealing the true nature behind the events and while there are some surprises they are all quite predictable. The film doesn't really hint at a big twist either, but somehow mind-bending plot twists became a genre cliché and way too often people expect them to be there, dismissing any film that fails to deliver. If you're like that, it's probably best to leave Sleepwalker alone.
Like I said before, Sleepwalker is a pretty simple film. Everything is neatly revealed and tied up at the end, the plot doesn't contain any real big twists and runs smoothly from start to finish. But Oxide Pang's execution is flawless and makes for some stunning scenes and settings. Lee is at her best and while Oxide Pang has definitely made better films, he could do a lot worse with a film like this to flesh out his oeuvre. I can't really comment on the 3D, but it's good to know that the 2D version doesn't suffer from too many tacky leftover effects. All in all it's a solid film, an exercise in perfected entertainment.
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