Sunday, 10 November 2013

Horror Net

Director: Ma Hwa
Writer: Ma Hwa
Producer: Pyng Gwo-Huei
Cast: Suen Yaw-Uei, Lei Yen-Yang, Chen Yea-Huey
Year of release: 2000
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed from: VCD

Sometimes I like to give myself a surprise. Browsing through a selection of VCDs in a shop in London’s Chinatown, I came across one which appeared to be some sort of supernatural tale but which had no English title on the packaging. A sort of Hong Kong lucky dip.

Many months later I eventually got round to slipping the disc into the old DVD player and discovered that I had bought something called Horror Net. Fortunately, it was subtitled. Unfortunately, the subtitles were very hard to read as they were not only badly translated but also frequently disappeared into a white background. The film itself proved to be very difficult to follow and features the absolute cheapest, tattiest ‘special effect’ ever seen. I mean, straight up, if you can show me any attempt at a special effect which is as woefully cheap and stupid as this, then I will buy you a very large drink.

Chen Yea-Huey (‘introduction new star’) is Chang Pao Shan, wealthy teenage orphan whose millionaire parents stare down from photos on the wall of her expensive home. She is looking for Mr Right, relying on the predictions of internet fortune teller Dr Wei (the very western-looking Lui Yu Yeung aka Simon Lui, credited as ‘Lei Yen-Yang’, whose prolific genre CV includes ICQ Ghost, Cyber War, the lengthy Troublesome Night series, New Dead Project I and II, Last Ghost Standing, 24 Hours Ghost Story and Nightmares in Precinct 7 plus Raped by an Angel III: Sexual Fantasy of the Chief Executive(!) and Viagara Madness(!!) - and he also dubbed one of the voices for the Chinese release of Monsters Inc!).

Distracted by the attentions of his flirty bimbo wife, Wei makes some sort of error which matches Pao Shan up with Wu King Yuen (also identified in the inconsistent subtitles as ‘Wu Ching Yuen’ and ‘Chin Yuen Wu) played by pop star Suen Yiu Wai aka Eric Suen (, Freaking Spicy Killer) credited here as ‘Suen Yaw-Uei’. He is the son of one of Hong Kong’s ten richest men but it’s only later, when Pao Shan and King Yen have got together, that Wei discovers that the young man was actually killed in a car crash five years earlier, so he has matched the eligible Miss Chang up with a ghost. He later blames this on the millennium bug...

The credits boast a ‘special appearance’ by Ngai Chau Wah (Last Hurrah for Chivalry; credited as ‘Wey Chiou-Huah’) who plays another ghost, dressed in a Peking opera-style red costume. I think she has been unleashed from the afterlife along with King Yuen and in one sequence - shown twice, though both occasions seem out of context - we see her torch his car. Being a rich young man, he drives an expensive looking vehicle and the shoestring production could never afford to scratch it, let alone set it alight. So first we see the car though foreground flames, which is cheap but we can see what they’re trying to do. Then, as the viewer’s jaw hits his chest, we see that they have cut to a fake car - I’ll just say that again because I’ll probably never have another chance: a fake car - made from sheet metal.

Frankly it looks like cardboard but card or wood would burn quicker than that. It’s basically several sheets of metal, bolted together to make a box and crudely painted with a windscreen, doors and radiator. Even the wheels are simply four circles of metal bolted on underneath, which might work if the car was shown only in profile but they’ve shot it from a front angle so that it is balanced on ‘tyres’ which are clearly only a centimetre or so thick. What the hell were they thinking? Did they imagine anybody would be fooled for a nanosecond? Is it meant to be ironic? It just beggars belief. When you think you’ve seen everything...

Anyway, back in the plot, Pao Shan’s personal trainer, gym owner Ma Chi, carries a torch for her but she just wants to be friends. Descending into a spiral of drinking and gambling, he embarrasses himself in a nightclub where Pao Shan and King Yuen are dancing with Pao Shan’s best friend A-Mei (Miss Asia 1990 runner-up Yeung Yuk Mui aka Strawberry Yeung - I Will Eat You, Something Incredible: Blood Curse, The Floating Body - credited as ‘Yang Yu-Mei’) and her beau Pen Wei. Ma Chi borrows money from his friend, hairdresser Lee Shu, but this is not enough to prevent a beating from those to whom he is already in debt. There is also a subplot about Pao Shan’s Filipino maid Dina Hwa (who looks about as Filipino as I do), who sees her employer talking to herself, realises that King Yuen is a ghost, and quits. Oh, and there’s a long-haired tramp who chases Pao Shan through a park and later sneaks into her house to gorge himself in her kitchen, though he seems harmless enough.

Dr Wei confronts the female ghost and his spying wife thinks he’s having a supernatural affair. The ghost wants to take King Yuen back to the Netherworld with her but is prevented from doing so when she becomes enveloped in a large glowing ball of energy which battles against a similar ball containing the spirits of Pao Shan’s parents, who have stepped down from their photographs.

One bizarre thing which I haven’t mentioned is that, when Pao Shan and A-Mei are throwing a masked party in Pao-Shan’s house, a bunch of people apparently step out of her computer screen, don masks and join in, stuffing themselves with food. They all stalk around with their arms out in scary claw-poses, apart from a couple of little kids made up in Peking opera costumes, and nobody notices them; as the party winds down, they go back into Pao Shan’s bedroom and into her computer. What on earth is going on there?

Eventually, and without explanation except that Dr Wei has told her that King Yuen is a ghost, Pao Shan is discovered dead on the beach, apparently murdered by Ma Chi, who is found hanged in his gym. Then there is a romantic montage of earlier Pao Shan/King Yuen scenes - and, um, that’s it.

This does not make a jot of sense and parts of it almost seem to have wandered in from another film. There’s no real horror and the only way that the internet is involved is that Dr Wei uses it for matchmaking research, so the title - even after I had found it - proved to be supremely irrelevant.

Also in the cast are Hwang Wei-Der, Lin Yea-Jing, Lu Cherng-Shyang, Luo Chyi, Hwang Guan-Shiun, Su Sheau-Lan, Hei Long, Lin Ming-Liang and Chen Yea-Chyan, and the credits include someone listed as ‘procucer manager’ which looks like a simple typo for ‘production manager’ until you find there’s two of those listed as well. The film was made by Kingshop International Motion Picture Co. Ltd and distributed by Gold Yes-Shen (Hong Kong), for what it’s worth. I can find out nothing about writer-director Ma Hwa at all.

The picture on this VCD - which is dubbed without removing the original voices - is pretty bad and makes me think that this was shot on video.

MJS rating: D
review originally posted 29th November 2004

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