Four post-high school teens are running around the countryside looking to stay with a relative on a country estate in China. They get there and are greeted by this creaky old door, cobwebs and a black cat. So we know for sure this is a MYSTERIOUS HOUSE. Suddenly, an older gentleman with a sinister look opens the creaky old door, so now we know things are getting spooky for reals. The kids of course invite themselves in and the old curmudgeon seems to be annoyed his game of Mahjong was disturbed. We come to understand Mysterious Man carries around a pocket full of nails and a hammer and it isn’t just for hanging pictures, you know what I’m saying? He begins to pick the kids off one by one in a snooze fest of (un-shown) murdering frenzy and never once are we interested in the kids, him, the house, or the back-story of some kind of 20 year old love grudge vendetta regarding the parents of one of the girls.
Act II reveals itself in reverse chronological order and we are in a hotel bar. Mysterious Man and another man are hanging out talking about life and philosophy. Taking a page out of the Leonardo DiCaprio book of acting, the other man intensely smokes squares one after the other whilst shooting straight from the hip, straight from the script. The acting by this other man is self-consciously camera aware and you keep wondering why the Mysterious Man won’t “nail him”. Yet he doesn’t because this is opposite world where everything you want to happen won’t, and instead, the scene is set for a little song and dance, Tango number. That’s right, the hotel clerk and the serving girls and the new man all start dancing the Tango, Shall We Dance-style. It sounds funny! A little Twin Peaks noir humor break, no? If only it was. The final act saves half of the film and while it doesn’t deliver any solid performances (accept, perhaps, MAYBE that of the leading Mysterious Man) or relinquish any new material, it provides a late sense of urgency. We understand and finally feel a connection for Mysterious Man, his broken heart, and his pocket full of nails.
Horror aficionados may like the syrupy silliness of it and feel a connection to the good man gone wrong genre feel…but that is really a stretch when the song and dance number hits. Song and dance lovers may get groovy to the beat until a serious horror film tries to erupt. Drama lovers may be the most served here, however they tend to demand a better quality script, plot advancement and well…better drama. More than anything, it feels like this may be the beginning of a trend, this cross genre B movie slapstick, and if it is, I hope Chinese directors can create more of a defining arc.