Koma (2004)
By: Markus Zussner on September 29, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 Anamorphic Cantonese DD 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1, Cantonese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 84 minutes
The Movie
Director: Chi-Leung Law
Starring: Kar Yan Lam, Angelica Lee, Roy Chow
Screenplay: Susan Chan Country: Hong Kong
Two girls, a boy, and the kidney that got in the way. Conceived from the now well known urban myth of waking up in a bathtub of ice facing a mirror with the message "call the police or you will die" written on the face. You call the police from your trusty bath phone and they ask you to get out of the bath and step in front of the mirror. You get out of the tub and think things are bad enough with shrunk nuts and stiff nipples but once in front of the mirror you discover a lovely hole where your kidney should be. And so from this myth, Koma is born.

There's this girl called Suen. Drunk and staggering away from a wedding party holding onto the walls of a hotel corridor to keep herself up, she passes a strange but beautiful girl and then accidentally staggers into an open hotel room to find another girl but this time naked and slivering around on the floor in her own blood. There's a message on the mirror that says "Call the police or you will die". Problem was there was no phone in the bathroom so it made it made the task extremely difficult to do. Screaming, Suen runs out of the room. She senses the killer close behind but manages to get away merely by making the decision not to turn round and look. Suen alerts the staff of the Hotel. After being interviewed by the police, the only lead Suen can give them is the strange girl she bumped into prior. She then runs to the comfort of her boyfriend. Next day she is back at the police station fingering out the strange girl in a police line-up. The police question their new suspect named Fung who has a sick mother in hospital that needs special care and treatment that she just can't afford. Fung lays on the poor girl in troubled times so well that the police buy it. They can find no link between Fung and the missing kidney so Fung is free to go. As a matter of fact quite a few Kidneys have been abducted lately leaving naked women lying around in baths of ice not as complete as they used to be, staring at "Call the Police or you will die" messages.

Now later on Suen gets a call from Fung the girl she ratted out in the police line-up. Not the usual call you would expect like "thanks for dragging me into this, I am innocent so mind your own business or I'll slap your face" but more to the point like "Hi, I am going to steal your Kidney" which obviously really freaks Suen out. She tells the police about the call but they are reluctant to believe her. Now here is where the story takes another turn. Suen is having lunch with her boyfriend that she someday hopes to marry when guess who turns up. There is an altercation that makes it obvious that our dear boyfriend has been playing hide the sausage with both of them. Fung is a beautiful but nasty piece of work who likes taunting Suen because Fung is spitefully envious of people who have everything and get it so easily while she has to struggle to keep her mother alive and make ends meet. Finally the moment arrives when Suen awakens in a large freezer surrounded by large blocks of ice to see her boyfriend's psycho mistress along with a do-it-yourself medical student ready to perform some home surgery. Just before they are all about to get down to it Suen lets the rabbit out of the hat and tells Fung that she is suffering from renal failure and that her kidney is useless. Well talk about dropping a baby on its head. This changes everything and the two women become the best of friends and live happily ever after. Well not quite...

Blood and Guts Thriller this ain't. Despite everything that is going on in this movie, it has to be one of the most boring and slow paced thrillers I have ever endured second only to Brian De Palmas Dressed to Kill. Director Lo Chi Leung certainly makes use of the same conventions and techniques that De Palma and Hitchcock used to great effect to thrill their audience, but in the end it felt like a twisted episode of Days of our Lives. There's certainly nothing in this movie at all that jumped out of the screen, grabbed me around the throat and said, "Freak out man!!" For those who like their thrillers twisted all the way round like a Chinese burn and with much gusto, stay away from Koma as it is likely to put you right into one. Something I find silly about the Kidney stealing myth is the message on the mirror. It should be "Call for an Ambulance or you will die" rather than call the police. I am sure that I would want to be stitched up first before reporting my Kidney stolen to the local authorities.
Presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1. This movie looks great. The print is pretty much flawless. We have crystal clear picture and great colour and depth in either day or night scenes. Nice interactive menu.
What I love about Eastern Eye is most of their product is DTS enabled, like Koma. Sound is great. It is crisp clear and constant with no sound defects in any way. It's not the type of film that has lots of sound effects like bullets, explosions or flying cows that your 5.1 or DTS love to throw back at you; however the highlight is the soundtrack which is genuinely creepy and utilised to maximum effect.
Extra Features
Koma featurette: Duration 15 minutes 30 seconds. Cantonese with English subtitles. Director, Producer and cast discuss conception of the film and what makes a good thriller.

Stills Gallery: 15 photo stills of various scenes

Original Koma Trailer

Eastern Eye Trailers: The Eye 2, Brotherhood of War, Born to Fight, Bangkok Dangerous.
The Verdict
As beautifully crafted and as visually stunning Koma is from the excellent camera techniques, lighting composition, the sets and locations, and the wonderful performances from the two female leads Karena Lam and Lee Sinje, for a thriller, sadly Koma is all whimper and no bite.

Not to be confused with Michael Crichton's Organ stealing thriller from 1977 Coma Starring Michael Douglas. This is Koma with a K which translated into English means "Help" or "Save" I believe.
Movie Score
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