Five Flavours 2014 Review: IN THE DARK, A Ridiculous Mess Of A Horror Film

Contributing Writer; Tokyo, Japan (@patrykczekaj)
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Five Flavours 2014 Review: IN THE DARK, A Ridiculous Mess Of A Horror Film
If there's one thing that may help the viewers at least partially understand why In The Dark is such a poorly executed and totally un-scary horror (or rather an accidental comedy masquerading as a supernatural horror), it's the following story: Promising Malaysian director Yeo Joon-han made a debut on the international film scene with a seemingly crowd-pleasing musical comedy Sell Out!. Despite successful festival run, the picture didn't gain much attention on home ground and became a huge box office flop, mainly because of various misconceptions regarding its concept and English-speaking cast. 

But the ambition-driven director didn't give up and immediately announced that his second feature will be a heartwarming family film. Unfortunately, the producers, worried that this particular project might also scare away potential ticket buyers, suggested that the man should shoot a Mandarin-language horror instead (Malaysia has a fruitful affair with the genre). Eventually he did, and this is the result.

When asked about his favorite type of film, Yeo often replies with one word: 'comedy'. If he sticks to making pictures that openly fall into this category, he'll surely please a lot of hearts. It's undoubtedly true that, whether purposefully or not, Yeo turns the smartly advertised and mysteriously-named In the Dark into a ridiculous, laugh-inducing farce even before he actually attempts to create an atmosphere of mystery and apprehension.

Joseph (played by rising star Wang Po-Chieh) and May (completely unconvincing ex-beauty queen Jennifer Foh) are the perfect couple. They spend their evenings hanging out in high-end bars, their weekends in ocean-view hotel rooms with huge bathrooms. In other words, they enjoy their life together to the fullest, up until the moment when Joseph finally finds courage to propose. By doing so he defies a fortune-teller's prophecy and as a result, voluntarily opens a sort of Pandora's box, setting off a tragic chain reaction that affects everyone involved.

May dies in a car crash a few days later. Clearly convinced that what happened was more than a horrible accident, Joseph chooses to investigate further on the matter, not only because his girlfriend's colleague Vivien (Candy Lee playing perhaps the only watchable character) tells him that shortly before death May was seen sitting in her car with a strange man by her side, but also because he feels that it's all his fault. In order to learn the truth the devastated man decides to contact the victim herself.

And that's when things start getting incredibly silly incredibly quick. Joseph invites Vivien over for an Ouija board session through which they might be able to channel May's spirit. Given the short notice, it's not really surprising that the planchette, significantly wider so as to fit the Chinese characters, is made of paper, while the message indicator takes the form of a common soy sauce saucer. What's baffling is how cheesy and anti-climatic the séance becomes. Vivien summarizes the supernatural shindig perfectly: 'What is this, a gothic horror?' Hasbro should really stop advertising its product in all the wrong places. Honestly, who's going to buy a board game featured in two of the worst horrors of the year (Stiles White's Ouija obviously takes the second place)?

In the Dark marks the return of the infamous plastic bag from American Beauty, but this time it's possessed by evil forces, has the ability to multiply, and seeks bloody revenge. The whole concept is hilariously absurd, but the image of a 'murderous' plastic bag definitely stays in mind (Shout out to Five Flavours team for putting similar bags all over the auditorium!). Though the characters try to show they're really terrified of the thing and it's ability to choke or strangle, their performances are hardly convincing. As a matter of fact, they act as if though they're mocking the poorly written script.

When In the Dark concentrates on the human element of the plot, it has its few brighter moments (i.e. Vivien finally facing demons from her past). But when it tries to impose fear on the audience, it fails miserably. The dialogues are unintentionally comical; jump scares are downright cheap and badly timed, while all the additional horror elements are completely random and senseless (i.e. a car moving and making noises on its own). And when the horrible CGI ghosts start poking around the vicinity, the pace slows down drastically and the horror itself simply ceases to exist.

In the Dark never edges away from its clichéd, jump-scare driven premise, and the only aspect that makes the story a bit more meaningful and touching is the twist at the end. 'Ghosts are the projections of our imagination', says one minor character, delivering perhaps the picture's only clever line. Although the conclusion is horribly ludicrous and corny, at least the director's desperate plan to make the painfully unexciting film slightly more enigmatic somehow works - connecting all the dots before the final punch arrives poses a challenge. But that's not much of a consolation at all.
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Film FestivalFive FlavoursIn the DarkMalaysiaYeo Joon-han怨鬼

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