Visits: Hungry Ghost Anthology DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Bone House Asia
Mark my words, she'll come back for you! – One angry mother.
Various writers and directors
2004, Region 1, 110 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 28th, 2008
Ian Yeao Kok Wei
Wong Sze Zen
Adlin Raman Ramlie
Oh, Asian Horror, what happened to you? Just a few short years ago, you were the prom queen. You were the high school girl whose ass everyone wanted to tap. But the years have not been kind to you, girly. Sure, you still get picked up because you still have a pretty face, but you still tell the same tired stories of your youth, the same stories everyone knows backwards and forwards, the same stories nobody, save you, wants to hear anymore. Because no matter how many times you change the name or move the location, it's the same old song and dance.
Such is the case with Visits: Hungry Ghost Anthology.
In China, there is a holiday known as Ghost Festival. Similar to Halloween, on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, the dead walk among the living (in the form of real spirits, as opposed to kids dressed as them) and plates of money and gifts are left by the breathers as a bribe to the spirits to just keep moving along. Visits uses that tradition as its bookends, in the form of a disc jockey opening the film promising to tell four tales of terror in honor of the holiday, and ending the movie by taking some calls.
The first tale, "1413", is the most stereotypical of the bunch, as it covers the Asian horror film gambit: suicide, revenge and a long haired ghost girl. It opens with Mae Ling waking in a hospital with amnesia, who finds she is being haunted by a mysterious teen. Early on it is revealed that Mae Ling made a suicide pact with her best friend, but for whatever reason, didn't follow through (or did, but failed). The short crawls its way to the reveal you can see coming, and the mediocre acting and lack of any sort of frights whatsoever make this one the weakest of the four — with all things considered, that's somewhat of an accomplishment.
"Waiting for Them", the second short, is rather good, but suffers because it doesn't belong in the anthology at all. Concerning two best mates, the piece is a tragic tale of friendship and loss. The piece is well shot, managing to have nice looking scenes in a 4:3 confinement. The acting, too, is good, as the bond the two friends share is believable, as well as the sorrow. Sadly,"Waiting for Them" would be a good addition to an anthology outside of horror, but it just doesn't work here. (There is one particular moment where a woman sees some legs in a closet, but it's completely out of place, and feels like an attempt at a scare to force its way into the genre.)
In "Nodding Soup", the third story, a group of friends gather at an apartment where a girl committed suicide in order to film a séance — one of the traditions of the Ghost Festival. Like "Waiting for Them", the piece is tired and predictable. The acting is better in this one, and it does benefit from a few eerie moments, but at the end of the day, it's nothing new.
The final addition, "Anybody Home", is easily the best of the four, but pulls a move at the end that all but ruins the coolness that preceded it. The short follows the actions of an oddball apartment superintendent as he stalks an unsuspecting resident. What makes it interesting is that in the first three quarters of the piece you are as much a voyeur as the super, watching him through the apartment security cameras, as well as the spy cameras creep-face placed in the woman's apartment. Where "Anybody Home" fails miserably, though, is the moment the film takes an unexpected turn. At this point it also takes away the voyeurism, switching to a regular filming style and managing to lose all suspense and power in one pisspoor decision.
Visits: Hungry Ghost Anthology is another entry in what appears to be a dying genre. If the movie had come out during the peak of genre, it may have been an adequate rental to substitute for Ringu or Ju-on, but even then just barely. Now, however, it's only worth catching on cable, should it make it there.
Video and Audio:
Full frame? Really? Wow.
Shot on HD, the full frame presentation looks it. For the most part, a sharp presentation, but there are a few instances where the picture suffers from the usual gang of suspects that plague most HD presentations (grainy pic the softer it gets, etc.).
The non-English language Dolby Digital 2.0 is adequate although this is one that might have benefitted from a better mix.
English subtitles are available.
- Making of Visits
- Original Trailer
- Trailer Gallery from Tidepoint Pictures
Not much in the way of features, save the 26 minute featurette, but there are some things to be gained from it. Sure, some of it is fluffy, but I found some of the interviews with the filmmakers and actors actually had some substance. For instance, I originally disliked "Waiting for Them" due to its complete lack of any sort of scares, but after watching the featurette and gaining some insight to the point of the short, I re-watched it and enjoyed it much more. That said, don't look to the feature to make the film that much better, or you'll be disappointed.