Monday, November 3, 2008

They Wait...

They Wait (2008) is a ghost story, first and foremost.
It relies on a creepy story as opposed to lots of gore and empty plot.
While nowhere near as scary as say 'The Ring' or 'The Grudge' (which is what they were going for here I think), it still is a slow burning, atmospheric film.
Though I have to say - I think the title is pretty half-baked.

The opening sequences (one of a present day Chinese man apparently hunting in the woods who gets attacked by what looks like a spirit bear, the other of a time 50 years in the past - in which a group of factory owners seem to be packing boxes and getting them prepared to send overseas) all figure into the plot significantly - you just don't know it yet.

Fast forward to the present yet again:

Sarah (Jaime King) has been living in Shanghai with her (chinese) husband Jason (Terry Chen)and their young son Sam (well acted by tyke Regan Oey).
Seems Jason is a big wig in his family business and that has kept the family overseas setting up an office for longer than anticipated.
When Jason's uncle Raymond dies unexpectedly (you find out that this is the man killed by the bear-spirit in the beginning), the family heads back home to the Pacific Northwest for the funeral and to stay awhile with the ill-natured and somewhat cranky widowed aunt, who apparently raised Jason.

Of importance to the plot is the information that Raymond and two associates were involved in some sort of benefactory practice of shipping the bones of deceased Chinese immigrants back to China for burial, as it is believed that if they are not laid to rest with their ancestors, they will be unable to rest. In other words - they will be unsettled ghosts.

So, soon after arriving back in Vancouver (in Chinatown of course), things start to get funky for little Sam.
He's creeped out by his favorite teddy bear, is afraid of the dark, and he starts seeing 'ghosts' taking the offerings from out on the street that people leave for the dead.
He finds out it is 'Ghost Month' - an old Chinese tradition that during this month in the year, the veil between the living and dead is broken. He develops more than a passing interest in the folklore and beliefs of this symbolism.
In fact, he becomes quite frightened by it.
Furthermore, he starts seeing a ghost of a young woman at his aunt's home, and being curious, follows it to the mysterious factory in the lower level of the warehouse/home.
Soon, Sarah herself also begins to experience some strange visions, but when Jason is called back to Shanghai for a business emergency, she stays on to help the aunt out for awhile.

Little Sam suddenly becomes ill and is hospitalized and near death.
Western medicine is unsuccessful in treating the boy, so Sarah does her own research into the strange goings-on in the factory, as well as the history of these cryptic Chinese cultures and traditions of death and ghosts.
She has some help with her apprehensions and concerns from an old-school "pharmacist" - more like a chinese herbal guru of sorts that knows all these philiosophies and legends and what will befall the little boy if the mother doesn't uncover the truth about what really happened in that factory, why the malevolent spirits have chosen Sammy to torment, and he also knows a bit about how Jason's family is involved.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this film. I like a good ghost story, and while it is not The Changeling, it is a refreshing change to see a movie that does not depend on gore and special effects to tell its tale.
There is alot of plot here, and while at first confusing, the tale is woven well and the ending is satisfying.

Truth be told, I found this to be more of a mystery than a horror film. There aren't alot of outright scares - I can only think of one thing that made me shudder. It tries to be similar in theme to most J-Horror movies, but doesn't quite produce the same scares most of those films are known for.
Still, I have trouble finding fault in most horror movies, because I enjoy them so much - and I have definately seen much much worse than this in my lifetime. (like, say- 'Feast 2' or 'Borderline Cult'!- aaarrrrgghhhh! save me from the seventh circle of hell that those films are in!)

So- give 'They Wait' a chance - the acting (in particular the little boy) is good, the story is original, and the ending tied up all the loose strings.

No comments: