In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ab-normal Beauty

A queue (Zip is the Canadian Netflix for all you foreigners out there) is a funny thing sometimes. I’ll hear about some obscure movie on a website or show and put on my ziplist where it will sit for months (and in a few cases, even years). Then one day, it will appear in my mailbox. At this point, I will have no recollection about why I ziplisted it in the first place. I have gotten myself into trouble doing this, having to endure many a shitfest like Singapore Sling or All Night Long. So, when Ab-normal Beauty showed up, I was hoping I wasn’t in for another one.

Slipping in the DVD and seeing 'An Oxide Pang Film' come up on the screen gave me some degree of relief though. First, it reminded me of why I would have ziplisted this title in the first place and also that I now had at least a marginal chance of seeing something half decent. Now, I have a love/hate relationship with the Pang Brothers - Oxide and his twin brother, Danny. They are either engineering gold like The Eye (I didn’t see the sequel; if enough people tell me a film is shit on a stick, I am usually compelled to avoid it) or absolute messes like The Tesseract.

Ab-normal Beauty is about this young cutie photography student (played by Race Wong) that one day happens upon a fatal traffic accident. Of course, she does what any well-adjusted person would do and takes some pictures of the corpse laying in the middle of the street. It seems like a bit of a leap, but who am I to judge? She then discovers that capturing death on film gives her some measure of arousal and the obsession grows from there.

The frustrating thing about the Pangs is they know how to use the camera like gangbusters, but they always have to throw in these overdramatic interludes that cheese up the place. I’m not saying they are the only Asian directors that do this (maybe it’s a cultural difference that I, as a North American viewer, don’t get), but the Pangs especially have been known to lay it on pretty thick at times. Their 2006 film Re-cycle was basically ruined by this kind of stuff. The first two acts of Re-cycle were great - imagine a live action version of Spirited Away, but add in a shit ton of aborted fetuses - but was irreparably mired by a climax that was equal parts sappy and absurd. Granted, the atrocious subtitling didn’t help either, but you get my drift. Getting back to the visuals though, the last half reminded me of Saw and Hostel, which is strange considering Beauty was made at the same time as the former. Decide for yourself.

It’s just an observation; maybe they were channelling Guinea Pig instead.

On the unforgivably negative side, I must admit the big reveal at the end made me laugh out loud at its complete randomness and the last line of the film was completely unnecessary, as well. It seems to me that the Pangs never know when they are ahead. The more time that goes by, the excellence of The Eye seems more and more like an anomaly.

I’d say Ab-normal Beauty lies in the middle of the Pangs canon. It’s a film of solid moments and imagery, but stalls when you put it together as a whole.

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