Movie review: Tales from the Dark 2

Black Umbrella ups the gore, with Teddy Robin, who also directs, and Aliza Mo (above).

89 minutes

Opens on Thursday

2½/5

SINGAPORE - The story: In this second part of the horror film anthology, three more Hong Kong film-makers adapt stories written by Lillian Lee Pik Wah. The first story is Pillow, about an insomniac nurse (Fala Chen) who is worried about her missing boyfriend (Gordon Lam).

In Hide And Seek, a group of school kids play a spooky game in an abandoned school late into the night. Rounding it all up is Black Umbrella, about a man (Teddy Robin) who does a string of good but unappreciated deeds during one night.

Compared to its predecessor, this second collection of horror shorts based on stories written by acclaimed Hong Kong author Lillian Lee Pik Wah is bloodier, edgier and features a lot more ghosts.

But that does not make any of the three films in this anthology any scarier; in fact, all three shorts are forgettable.

About the only thing of note that director Gordon Chan (Painted Skin, 2008) does in Pillow is have veteran actor Gordon Lam and Hong Kong beauty Fala Chen engage in a string of explicit sex scenes. Apart from this, the film's conclusion can be guessed almost immediately after the story begins.

The second short Hide And Seek, directed by Lawrence Lau, is a lot creepier, as he makes use of traditional horror film tricks such as having ghosts pop up at random against a high-pitched soundtrack. Without explanation, they show up every now and then in an abandoned school where a group of school kids are playing a game of "catch the ghost" in the middle of the night.

The somewhat intriguing relationship between Cheri, one of the girls in the group, and her late teacher Mr Lee, who had apparently died of Sars, is not explored with any satisfaction. The way she talks about him to her friends hints at an infatuation - or maybe something more - but you never find out.

Black Umbrella, directed by veteran singer-actor Teddy Robin, is easily the goriest of the lot, albeit pointlessly. Overly concerned with driving home the message that there is evil in all humans, the segment becomes increasingly bizarre and didactic until it abruptly ends in an inexplicably bloody way with a prostitute (Aliza Mo).

While Robin is unfocused as a director, he performs better as an actor - he also stars in Black Umbrella as the main character of a good-natured but lonely old man, by all accounts a convincing portrayal in the face of cynicism.

Ultimately, Robin is just another big name wasted in this two-part horror anthology that is more miss than hit.


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.