Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Seventh Moon (2008)

The American couple Melissa (Amy Smart) and Yul (Tim Chiou) has come to China for their honeymoon. If they had known that they were going to star in a horror film, they probably wouldn't have chosen the ghost month for the whole affair.

One night, out in the middle of nowhere, their tourist guide Ping (Dennis Chan) just leaves the two behind in his car. Supposedly, he has gotten lost and just wants to ask for the way in a nearby village, but he just doesn't return.

After some time, Melissa and Yul follow him, only to find themselves right in the middle of live animals put outside as if for a sacrifice and confronted by voices from behind the village's locked up houses which seem to send someone - or something - in their direction. Being some of the smarter horror film tourists around, the couple decide not to stay and wait until the mysterious someone arrives and make their way back to their car. Surprisingly enough, their vehicle is still alright, well, except for the mass of blood someone has splashed onto it.

The Americans aren't waiting up on Ping, wherever he might be, and just drive away, but they don't get too far. First a naked, pale and hairless figures crosses the road in a rather disturbing fashion and soon thereafter an injured man stumbles onto the road.

A little later, our intrepid tourists and the man manage to crash the car and have to go on the run from more of these pale figures, who really don't seem too friendly.

Seventh Moon is an American film directed by Eduardo Sanchez, one half of the Blair Witch Project director duo. It was completely filmed in Hong Kong with mostly Hong Kong talent behind the camera, and for the first two thirds of the film I truly wasn't sure why anyone would bother to go to Hong Kong just to make nothing more than a very standard vacation horror piece that could have taken place anywhere and anytime. The film's beginning is just dreadfully generic, with all the expected plot beats, all the bitching, screaming and running around I have seen oh so many times before, just filmed with a shakier camera and faster editing and therefore harder to parse than necessary.

Until fifty or so minutes in the film, a sudden shift in its rhythm occurred and a more individual voice came to the foreground. There's a moment when the film suddenly stops, its hectic pace turning into something much slower and a little stranger than what came before, as if Sanchez had just fulfilled his contractually obliged amount of "stuff all horror movies need to have" and was now starting to show us a more personal way to work inside the genre.

Even then, Sanchez still loves his handheld camera and fast editing more than will be dear to some, but now he uses them with much more control. From that point on, the film is not exactly surprising, but it has lost its genericness as if it never had been there, coming to a finale which fits the film and is not trying to do the mandatory schlock horror twist ending. I'd even go as far as to say that the film's ending has some emotional resonance, providing a little awe in front of the unknown.

I just wish the film would have done this a little earlier, or that the actors would have done their Acting with less of a capital, shouty A (although Smart and Chiou are quite good at the end of the film), or that Sanchez would use the shakycam a little less outside of hectic and exciting scenes. All of these things, or just one, and I'd have an easier time recommending Seventh Moon. As it stands, I found the film's last third well worth going through what comes before, but I don't think this will be the case for everyone.


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