Visible Secret (2001)
Reviewed by: Trigger on 2001-08-05
Summary: Came close to being scary, but not quite
Visible Secret stars Shu Qi, Sam Lee ("Alien" from Gen-X Cops), Eason Chan (who hasn't been in too much), and Anthony Wong (briefly). It's a ghost story somewhat. Chinese ghost story films seem to differ substantially from US ghost stories. We seem to have a different take on ghosts in general. If you're used to US ghost movies - it might take a little time to adjust to the Chinese "rules" for ghosts as they are a bit differet. It's hard to explain the differences because most of them are so subtle, but they add up and it's a completely different experience.

If I had to sum it up, I'd say that the Chinese versions of ghosts are much more theatrical while ours are much more etherial (if that makes any sense)... Also - their ghosts seem to behave more like zombies while ours seem to be much more emotional and ... well... ghostly.

In any case, this film seems to have that take on ghosts... they are zombies that walk among us and most people can't see them. They also have some sort of reason why they are sticking around. They posess the living and make them do strange things. You can make them go away if you get them to feel that the thing they've been hanging around for has taken place.

This film had many things going for it. Shu Qi is always a good thing (as far as I'm concerned - others feel quite the opposite) and she turns out a very nice (and fully clothed) performance in this film. She plays a quirky and emotional love interest for our hero/main character (sound familiar?) played by Eason Chan who also turned out a decent performance. In all fairness, this is one of Shu Qi's better roles (that I've seen) and it gives her more range than other films have. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll just say that she plays a person who seems to have a bit of a dual personality. This film also has a nice creepy musical score - which is important in a horror film as it sets the tone. In addition, this film has a great story, a good supporting cast, some good special effects and I felt the characters were well developed.

So what went wrong? This film came pretty close to actually being scary, but never achieved this for me. I like being scared when I see a horror flick. This one isn't a gore fest (although there are a few scenes of nice gore), so it should rely on creeping the audience out. This didn't creep me out much if at all. Part of it could be due to the cinematography which was somewhat flat. There were a few moments of stylish and creative camera sweeps and tricks, but for the most part the camera wasn't used to their advantage - it was as if they had never done a horror film before. I certainly feel that this film could've been 100X better with a bit of creative camera work and just a few minor changes here and there. It just didn't have much impact. There were a few Hitchcock moments and some interesting visuals, but then for most of the film, the camera doesn't move - it doesn't pan much, it rarely tracks and it made me feel like I was sitting still watching a play. The movie went to the trouble of presenting these creepy things and yet it didn't try to "sell" any of it with the camera. That's one thing US filmmakers are good at - selling creepy scenes with the camera. I just think this movie would've worked better had it been more stylish.

Ann Hui directed this picture and it certainly wasn't her first, so I don't understand why this one didn't quite work. I haven't seen any of her other films, so I couldn't say how skilled she is as a director.

I don't like to give away information about plots when doing reviews... I think it's best to discover it yourself as you watch. So I won't say anything about the plot except that it's a love story with ghosts.

The DVD:
I watched the new Mega Star Region 0 DVD. It's really nice. It has a beautiful, clean transfer in 16X9 Anamorphic Widescreen. The subtitles are clear and easy to read - they appear over the film and not in the bottom bar, but that doesn't bother me. Only a few grammar and spelling mistakes and a few instances of things not being translated and I only noticed the timing being off in a few spots. Nothing major or distracting. The audio was Cantonese DD5.1 or Mandarin DD5.1. I listened to the Cantonese audio which was very nice. The surrounds were put to good use and there were even some good scenes for my subwoofer. Only problem with the sound is that the levels weren't very balanced - The sub and the rears were a bit high and the center was a bit quiet - one adjustment should be fine for the whole film and even if you don't adjust it, it should be fine.

The disc also includes a Trailer, a Teaser and a Making Of documentary (10 - 20 minutes I guess? forgot to look) - none of which is subtitled. It's still interesting anyway. There is also a comic version of the story included (but might be too small to see on a TV smaller than 40". A very nice disc indeed - especially for $83HKD (roughly $10 - $11 US).

I'd say it's certainly worth asking price. I wouldn't pay more than that for this film because I didn't feel it was strong enough to warrant the twenty bucks DVDs tend to cost in the US. I'll probably watch it again at some point for Shu Qi, but it was a little bit of a let-down for a creepy horror film.

The film:
6.1/10

The DVD:
8.5/10
Reviewer Score: 6