Inner Senses (UK - DVD R2)
Is the spooky child really a ghost or is it all in Scott McKenzie's mind? Find out...
Yan is a disturbed young girl who moves into a new apartment in Hong Kong. Hoping to make a new start, she can’t escape her visions of dead people—or are they ghosts? She visits psychologist and professor Jim Law (played by Leslie Cheung) who helps her combat her demons. However, he then starts to have visions of someone from his past and struggles to fight sudden suicidal tendencies.
Inner Senses is slightly different to the many run-of-the-mill Ring wannabes out there in that the film is essentially split into two stories. First of all, Yan visits Jim to help her deal with her visions and at almost exactly half way through the movie, the focus switches to Jim’s psychological condition. Is the schizophrenic structure of the movie intentional? Does it reflect the state of mind of the two protagonists? Maybe, but it’s more likely that the writer and director didn’t have enough to stretch out to a whole movie so they told the same story twice.
Horror movies from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea tend to be referred to in arty terms, partly due to the striking image of spooky children that has become all too common and partly due to the fact that only a relatively small subset of Western movie-goers watch them on a regular basis. However, the fact of the matter is that if Inner Senses were produced in Hollywood with the same screenplay and production techniques, it would probably be overlooked as a clichéd genre picture: Young vulnerable woman in the bath? Check. A ghost in the bathroom mirror? Check. Lots of lightning and a loud blast from the string section to tell you when to be scared? You betcha.
I’m willing to go easy on the screenplay though. Seeing as I don’t speak Cantonese, the dodgy lines may be down to the subtitle translator. However, there is no big twist in the tale that we expect from this type of movie. Yan’s story ends in an anti-climax and Jim’s deep dark secret is telegraphed very early on so I was left watching the clock until he finally cottoned on to what had been spelled out to me an hour earlier.
I also found that the director didn’t make use of the best moments. While trying to rid himself of his visions, Jim gives himself electric shock treatment in a scene that is skipped over very quickly. A more dramatic approach would have increased the tension and brought the audience into his frame of mind in a more effective way. It appears that the first half of Inner Senses has been given more attention to detail but unfortunately it’s the second half of the film that could have been more interesting.
Inner Senses was the last film Leslie Cheung made before he took his own life in 2003. His measured performance is what lifts this film above its below-average roots and is the main reason for a casual viewer to check out Inner Senses. Karena Lam gives a believable performance as the haunted Yan but the montage with her and Leslie Cheung is excruciatingly cheesy, bordering on parody and completely changes the tone of the whole film.
I’ve reviewed a few Tartan releases recently and they’ve all followed a similar pattern—a lot more seems to have been spent on sprucing up the audio quality than the video and this release is no exception. From the beginning, the picture is a little shaky, with a surprising amount of scratches. The 16:9 anamorphic picture is colourful but the contrast is severe and patches of grain and dirt are also common.
There are three audio tracks available—Dolby Stereo, 5.1 and DTS 5.1. I chose the latter for review purposes and I was not surprised (from my experience of recent Tartan releases) that it was clean and clear. The soundtrack is powerful but never takes attention away from the dialogue. If you need a reason to pick up this DVD (the feature and the video quality make it difficult to recommend), it is without a doubt the audio track.
The ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurette is frustratingly short and lacking in any kind of useful detail. It is made up solely of the main stars describing some real-life spooky moments on set and reciting their lines to the camera while in character. With an abundance of clips from the film, it is obvious this short was produced as a TV spot but it inclusion on this disc is pointless. The theatrical trailer is also included to round out a very slim set of extras.
If you just can’t get enough of horror films featuring scary young girls, you’re probably going to get round to watching Inner Senses at some point in the near future. There are a few interesting moments but not enough for me to recommend picking up the DVD, which as Leslie Cheung’s last film, deserved better treatment by both the filmmakers and Tartan alike.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 13th November 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital DTS English
Extras: Trailer, Behind the Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lo Chi-Leung
Cast: Leslie Cheung, Karena Lam, Maggie Poon, Waise Lee, Valerie Chow
Length: 100 minutes
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