Judge Joel Pearce caught a ghost once, but his mom wouldn't let him keep it.
Our review of Silk, published February 26th, 2008, is also available.
Creating Pandora's Box.
Ahh, time for another Asian ghost story. But wait! This one's different. Instead of simply rehashing the cursed object/long haired girl theme that has haunted the genre for the past few years, Silk attempts to completely redefine the ghost mythology. It doesn't always work, but it's by far the best of the genre I've seen in the past year.
Facts of the Case
A multinational investigation team is on the verge of a very large discovery. They've discovered a new material, one that could create permanent anti-gravity. There's a catch, though. The substance is powered by ghosts. Hashimoto (Yosuke Eguchi), the team leader, has successfully captured a ghost, but doesn't know what to do with it. He brings in Tung (Chen Chang, 2046), a highly skilled cop, to solve the mystery of the ghost and learn how to harness it's power. Of course, that's a dangerous thing to do, and could have more far-reaching consequences than any of them could imagine.
For nothing else, I have to give top credit to Silk for creating a relatively fresh take on the genre. This isn't the first time that film characters have tried to harness supernatural powers for science, but this is a fairly unique approach to even that theme. The first hour of the film doesn't even play out like a horror movie. Instead, characters and situations are developed, each item stacked up for when things go wrong in the second half. We get to know Tung, and learn about the project through his initially doubtful eyes.
This first half also brings something important to the forefront. We don't really know anything about ghosts, should they exist. Such a thorough mythology has been built around them, but the sightings that have been recorded have little to do with that mythology. Are ghosts out for revenge? Must their bodies be found to put them to rest? Indeed, what if we don't want to put them to rest, and instead would rather take advantage of a seemingly boundless energy? While most ghost stories rely on tired explorations of revenge and fear, Silk is willing to ask some larger questions. Would it be better to die and cease to exist, or to come back as a ghost and live forever? If mystical energies are real, they would make the ideal, renewable energy source. That said, points out one of the characters, they may also have rights as well, which need to be respected.
Once things get rolling in the second half, it's still not the jump moments and scares that drive the story. Instead, it's the mystery and the characters. There are a few frightening moments, of course, but Silk isn't a good choice for the shriek-seekers. What's impressive is how differently we approach the more generic ending after such a different first half. We care about these characters, and we aren't at all sure where the film is headed. The end avoids the typical twists, and it's finally a horror movie that doesn't throw in one last stab in favor of a meaningful, satisfying end. Silk isn't totally fresh and unfamiliar, but it does things differently enough that it never feels like the same old thing.
It's also a well-made film. The cinematography is quite slick, the special effects fit in seamlessly, and it features strong performances from the leads. That's often not the case for international collaborations, but each group of participants are equally good in this one. Tung is a particularly interesting character, and Chen Chang doesn't let him become just another tough Asian cop. The cinematography shows a more deliberate pacing than usual, but uses light, color, and reflections in an interesting way.
Tartan has done a solid job with this release. The video transfer looks fine, though, as usual, it isn't progressively flagged. The sound is strong as well, though it's almost exclusively across the front channels. The rear channels rarely kick into action at all, though the LFE is used effectively during the frightening scenes. There are quite a few special features on the disc. We get a production featurette, which shows the usual interviews and filming footage. There is also an alternate ending. It's a much more challenging and ambiguous ending, one that I suspect director Chao-bin Su was forced to change. The extras are rounded out by some deleted scenes and outtakes, none of which shed much light on the film. They are interesting to watch, though, and are a welcome inclusion here.
Even if you've been discouraged lately by the state of Asian horror, Silk is worth diving into. It's a well-mounted production, and it takes on some exciting new ideas and challenging philosophy. It's not the scariest horror movie I've seen, or the smartest, but it is a unique and entertaining blend of styles.
I'll let everyone go, but they have to promise to stop messing with those ghostly energies.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Tartan Video
• Production Featurette
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