Horror Hotline…Big Head Monster (2001)
By: Devon B. on September 15, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Mei Ah (Hong Kong) All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). Cantonese DD 2.0, Cantonese DD 5.1, Mandarin DD 2.0, Mandarin DD 5.1. Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, English Subtitles. 89 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Pou-Soi Cheang
Starring: Francis Ng, Josie Ho, Sam Lee, Niki Chow, Michelle Zhang, Cheung Kai Kai
Screenplay: Sunny Chan,
Wing-Sun Chan
Country: Hong Kong
I hope the English title, Horror Hotline…Big Head Monster is a mistranslation. While it DOES convey a bit of info about the story, this has got to be the most ridiculous title for a movie ever. Who the hell's going to want to watch a movie with a name like that? Well, obviously me, because I got it, but the only reason I checked it out was because it was getting good reviews. Maybe all the reviews for this film should begin with a disclaimer like 'The people who named this movie obviously have some brain neuron disorder. Please disregard the title.'

Horror Hotline revolves around an American film crew that comes to China to document a unique radio station. The station has a show where callers phone in to tell real life horror stories. The show gets a call about a big head baby, and the American reporter investigates further. Turns out that wasn't such a good idea.

Unlike many Asian films which suck but have a few creepy moments, Horror Hotline…Big Head Monster is creepy throughout, brimming with eerie imagery. Asians seem the best at creating unsettling images, but prior to Horror Hotline, I'd not seen an Asian film that provided them so consistently. The scary pictures' powers are augmented by the dark score and the disquieting sound FX.

This is easily the best-made straight, Chinese horror film I've seen. The cast are all good, except for the English-speaking cameraman who thankfully only has a few lines. The film is very well directed, looks good, features some pretty good CGI, and has substance. But despite having substance, Horror Hotline…Big Head Monster did remind me of The Blair Witch Project. That film's inspiration was confirmed when I reached the very abrupt ending, as much of the sequence is videoed in a style similar to Blair Witch's. Show Horror Hotline to someone who thinks Witch is scary so they realise what Blair Witch COULD have been. The series of events in Horror Hotline are set in motion by a person calling into a show, so perhaps the creators also saw The Last Broadcast?
Video
The Mei Ah DVD presents the film at 1.85:1, except for the alternate ending which is 1.33:1. Horror Hotline is a new movie, so the print's nice, but occasionally speckley. Certainly one of the best Mei Ah discs I've seen.
Audio
Audio is available in Dolby Digital in Cantonese or Mandarin, with both languages also being available in 5.1 surround. As usual, the Mandarin dub is crap, with scenes originally in English now in Mandarin. The Cantonese 5.1 mix is definitely the way to go. The subtitles come in English and traditional or simplified Chinese. The subs are on the matte, and have many interesting translations. The subs are a little hard to read on light backgrounds, but are pretty good, despite not always accurately transcribing English spoken phrases. Perhaps the strangest thing I've ever seen on a Chinese DVD are the subs translating words that appear in English written on screen. Funniest mistranslation: The American reporter yells, in English, about the 'freaking truth.' The subs translate it as 'facing truth.'
Extra Features
The Mei Ah DVD has a bonus alternate ending, which is WAY too derivative of Blair Witch. The entire thing is shot on video, and it ends with the camera being dropped just like the ending of Blair Witch (course, I always thought Blair Witch's final shot was stolen from Man Bites Dog, so I didn't care it'd been stolen from them). The multi-ending feature interrupts the actual film, as it doesn't allow you to choose your ending at the film's outset, so it pulls up a menu during the final chapter break. You can also choose to watch the two endings without viewing the film.

There's also a making of featuring behind the scenes footage and interviews, mingled with lots of clips from the movie. The movie clips feature the old school imbedded subs that fans of Asian cinema hate so, but the interviews and other footage are simply presented in Chinese.

The 'Best Buy' section takes you to look at the cover of the United We Stand and Swim DVD. I guess Mei Ah think that DVD is a best buy.

The Databank option lists the cast and crew and provides a synopsis of Horror Hotline.
The Verdict
While the DVD is from a mostly crap company, it is surprisingly good quality. The film is a worthwhile addition to any horror DVD collection. It may only be a few steps above bare bones for those that don't speak Chinese and can't understand the making of, but it is extremely cheap to purchase. If you don't care about extras at all, add an extra little Australia to the count below.
Movie Score
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