Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In short: Ghost on Air (2012)

Popular DJ Xiao Ping (Dennis Chew Zhong Qing) has trouble coping with the mysterious (I think) death of his true horror tale writer girlfriend, leading to hallucinations and a public breakdown that sees him demoted to the weekend late shift. There, Xiao Ping begins telling ghost stories based on the rich collection of his dead girlfriend. Various ghostly occurrences, ghost-induced computer messages, and the fact that the script wants him to, soon lead Xiao Ping to the last place his girlfriend investigated before she died, a shop house where vague and horrible stuff happens. In the end, he'll learn the truth about her death, though I'll be damned if I understood what exactly happened to her.

Cheng Ding An's Ghost on Air has its moments of somewhat effective spookiness whenever the director lets his ghosts linger just outside the frame, or uses the sort of lingering shots favoured by people like Takashi Shimizu to produce a sense of unease. There's also some choice spooky noise fun concerning a rattle drum.

Unfortunately, these proven and well-loved techniques are put in the service of a plot that is infuriatingly vague instead of making clear sense or being intelligently ambiguous, leaving plot lines like the death of our hero's girlfriend more vaguely circled around than actually explained. Of course, I have seen more than one Asian horror movie where an unwillingness to explain itself was a great virtue, but those films are about exactly this inexplicability of the supernatural, or connect their characters and the supernatural by the more subtle logic of theme than that of plot. There's not much of that sort of high-falutin' thing to be found in Ghost on Air. If the film has any sort of theme, I couldn't find it between the standard spook scenes and many shots of Dennis Chew Zhong Qing looking constipated and having no character development I could discern. It's a bit as if someone had put thirty minutes worth of the film's script through the shredder before filming, and nobody ever realized. Or cared.

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