Thursday, October 11, 2007

They Wait VIFF Screening: They Wait, delivers thrills, and chills, in a formulaic package, but a unique story with enough scares to keep the most jaded film goer satisfied, makes this movie worth watching. Vancouver International Film Festival

The immigrant experience of Chinese to the western world in the early 1900's was no doubt a difficult time. Hard enough was being so far from home, but dying in an unfamiliar place, a world away from family, was a fear many hoped to avoid. The practice of sending the bones of the deceased back to homeland, to be buried alongside ancestors was a common superstitious practice. Yet, what would happen if your bones never made it back? The restless spirits would terrorize those who neglected them. Or so that's what They Wait wants you to believe.

The film stars Jaime King (Sin City), and centers on her son Sammy, as they return to Vancouver, from Shanghai to attend the funeral of an uncle. Considered by the community as a "bone collector", his death occurs eerily around the same time that the Chinese festival 'Ghost Month' is in full swing. Like any good ghost story, Sammy begins to see spirits around his uncle's house located in Chinatown. It's soon revealed that his family's old manufacturing and importing business holds some shady secrets. Martial arts legend Pei-pei Cheng (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), plays Sammy's strict Aunt, and Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens), plays a photographer, with two short scenes in the entire film.

I really wanted to hate this film. I really did. After hearing that Doctor Uwe Boll was attached to the production as Executive Producer, one has to wonder what sort of film has been cooked up. It received some lukewarm reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, and though at first glance, the ghostly thriller might seem like another 'killer' Uwe Boll Production, They Wait, manages to be anything but the German filmmaker's style. Directed by Ernie Barbarash, a director and producer of various film/tv sequels, with a story/screenplay written by some guy who used to work on "The Outer Limits" tv series, this movie manages to float ever so slightly above a pile of shit, in fact it’s quite an entertaining film with the standard scares that will surely please horror fans.

The movie uses the formula commonly seen in western remakes of Japanese horror films. Placing a Caucasian female lead in unfamiliar cultural situations, to give us the viewer, a window into the unknown as outsiders. Jaime King is not only gorgeous, but she held the film together with a pretty convincing performance as a mother driven to near insanity trying to figure out what's going on with her son. It works for the most part. The film isn't terrible, nor is it mind blowing. It has moments of bad acting, and slow pace, but it has enough scary stuff in there to make it a memorable film. I give the writer credit for telling a different kind of ghost story with Chinese folklore in a western setting. Kudos to the director for pulling it off.

It is almost entirely a Canadian production, priding itself in its Vancouver locations, Visual Effects talent, production crew, and Symphony orchestra, Uwe Boll's influence on the movie, wasn’t really a creative one. Who knows, having his name attached to the film might make it easier to distribute this movie if ever it makes it to regular theaters. Then again, it might backfire. In any case, this movie is worth watching when it comes out on DVD.

Related: VIFF screening: The Band's Visit, and Malos Habitos (Bad Habits).

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