Movie Review: In The Dark (2014 Malaysian film)

In The Dark 2014 malaysia movie still ghost

In The Dark (怨鬼) conveys messages on social issues but as a horror flick, it’s far from entertaining

Director-writer Yeo Joon Han’s previous film, a local English musical comedy entitled Sell Out! released back in 2008, was an award-winning success and it was one of my favourite local movies of all time. But much to my disappointment, his long awaited return offers nothing but a formulaic Chinese horror flick with typical structure, cliched flaws and minimal localisation. Sure, knowing Yeo, there’s definitely a message or purpose to his twist at the end, but not as impactful and ultimately in overall, it’s just too ordinary.

Like most Asian horror films, the story revolves around a haunted place and its connections to the mysterious deaths of some people. May (played by Jennifer Foh), who used to work at a small music centre that’s now haunted with spirits, dies in a car accident on the day after her boyfriend Joseph (Wang Bo Chieh) proposes to her. Delusionally desperate to see her again, Joseph seeks for the help of May’s best friend and colleague Vivien (Candy Lee), and attempts typical methods to contact the afterlife. Little did he know that both May and Vivien had a dark past and secret that are connected to everything.

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The scares of the film are cheap and predictable, relying mostly on sudden ghost appearances, change of camera angles and loud sounds. With that being said, the level of creepiness here is certainly not very high, but might still please most general audience who pays to watch the redundant films anyway. The slow development of the story is quite a challenge to tolerate, especially with those mushy, Taiwan teen idol drama-like dialogues. It takes like 10 minutes at the beginning before the title actually appears. The comedic parts sort of spoiled the spooky and emotional atmosphere that the film could’ve had.

The film also suffers from the uncleanly written script. Although Yeo Joon Han did well justifying a lot of things that happen in the movie, but there are still things left unexplained, some of which are what I call “the typical loop holes of the genre”. [WARNING: SPOILER FROM HERE UNTIL THE END OF PARAGRAPH] The ending reveals the indirect cause of May’s car accident seeing the spirit of the little girl on the road. This little girl was May and Vivien’s student at their now-haunted music centre, who had committed suicide by suffocating herself (with a plastic bag) at their workplace after receiving too much pressure from both parents and her piano teachers. May haunts Joseph only because she wants him to know that she’s actually not born a female. But regardless of that, Joseph seems to be relieved and still hopes to be with her. Love is beyond gender, just as the director wants to convey, while showing the worst outcome if adults over-pressured their children. Great, I liked the message. But the problems are… why did the little girl wait till now to actually begin her so-called “revenge”? If she could show up in front of May and cause her to die, why couldn’t she just kill Vivien at the beginning? How come the characters could suddenly, and conveniently, see spirits? Why do the spirits seemingly want to harm Joseph throughout the film? Why does Joseph need Vivien to tell her that there was actually a guy in the car with May when the accident happen; shouldn’t he already knew from the police or news?

However, I have to say that the idea of having plastic bags instead of creepy dolls or possessed beings as the main terrifying factor, is truly original. Who knows, maybe those who’ve seen the film might never look at plastic bags the same again.

Yeo Joon Han's In The Dark 2014 Malaysia movie meme

I can’t complain much about the performance of the main cast. They did their part well enough, perhaps only let down by the absurd, cringeworthy dialogues written. Taiwanese actor Wang Bo Chieh played his unmanly, emotional, naive character so convincingly that it’s to the point that I just wished he’d die. The gorgeous Candy Lee’s character, Vivien, is perhaps one of the most likable female characters in horror films as she’s tough, critical, she knows what’s up and she doesn’t do stupid things in the film (well, not that much at least). Jennifer Foh’s portrayal as May is also hauntingly compelling enough although a little awkward at parts. Simply put, the failures of the film are caused by Yeo Joon Han himself.

What I would’ve named the film: “The Total Opposite of Sell Out!”

Censorship in Malaysia: Doubt there was anything to cut at all.

Second opinion: My girlfriend said that she was looking at her own hands most of the time so that disqualifies her from giving opinion of any kind.

Verdict: Slow, cliched, flawed but delivers enough workable cheap scares, and ends with purpose. But I’d still prefer Yeo Joon Han to try experimenting on other genres instead and never look back to horror.

Rating: 2 / 5

in the dark 2014 malaysia movie poster yeo joon han
Chinese title
: 怨鬼 (Yuan Gui)
Country / Language: Malaysia / mostly Mandarin

Rated: P13
Genre: Horror
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director-writer: Yeo Joon Han
Cast: Wang Bo Chieh, Candy Lee, Jennifer Foh

Malaysia Release Date: March 27th 2014
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Studio(s): Amok Films

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