Scare 2 Die (2008)
By: Mr Intolerance on August 27, 2009  | 
DVD
Universe (Hong Kong). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Mandarin DD 2.0, Cantonese DD 5.1. English, Traditional Chinese, Aimplified Chinese Subtitles. 85 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Cub Chien
Starring: Sam Lee, Elanne Kung, Tommy Yuen, Lawrence Chou
Screenplay: Cub Chien
Country: Hong Kong
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
This anthology film was an absolute blind buy – never heard of it before, was just trawling the Asian video stores in Chinatown one day, needed a video to make up the 5 movies for $50 deal the last store I visited was having – it had a cover that screamed horror (and more effectively than the pidgin-English blurb on the back cover), and so here we are. I'm watching this as I review, completely free from bias. Are you ready? Then, let's go.

Story #1: 13 Unique Wonders

We start off with a young fella walking down the road, mobile plastered to the ear, and then something happens. Fucked if I know what – it's just a jump-cut edit of a disconnected image of violence, then there's the credit sequence with more interspersed images of violence, sort of like the opening montage of Se7en, and basically I think we're meant to simply be unsettled by a kind of feeling of non-specific dread.

Kan Au and his mates like to play a bit of mah-jong – Kan Au's a bit of a gambler, y'see. He's positively addicted to it. During a game, one of his buddies just drops dead, again that Se7en-style cinematography comes back, as well as a vague J-horror style feel. We see that Kan Au is the fella from the pre-credit sequence, and that the local loan sharks are out to chop off his hand if he doesn't pay back his loans inside of two weeks. He likes gambling, but he's not very good at it. He's also an awful bastard, hanging out with the mah-jong crowd when his lady needs him to take her to hospital when she's bearing their baby. Not an easy protagonist to sympathise with.

He's a pretty desperate fella – when the second lot of loan sharks turn out to prise their cash off of him, he takes a three storey leap that lands him all the way to hospital, rather than leave himself to the tender ministrations of the gangsters. No one seems to want to leave this dude alone. Even Tsuen Wong, his mate who died at the mah-jong table won't let the poor bastard be. He, however, is trying to be "helpful", and gives Kan Au a magical coin that will give him "13 Unique Wonders in 13 continuous days." Now, that does sound like a pretty sweet deal, if grammatically incorrect, but considering that Kan Au deals with loan sharks who want to amputate parts of his body, you do have to work out what the payback might be. I'd be a little wary, personally. After all, he's not the luckiest fella in the world.

Coin in hand, or rather in mouth – which should have been a warning sign to Kan Au, given the way in which Tsuen Wong died – he buggers off from the hospital, right back into another mah-jong game. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, he wins, and assured of his absolute invincibility, starts trying to get some more games on the go. This is the point where I realised that the subtitling on this film was not the best – "I will have you a great lost" is not a sentence I'm all that familiar with, and I'm not having a cheap racial dig here, but I really do think that some Asian video companies, if they're going to bother with an English-speaking clientele at all, need to at least cater for that clientele adequately. I realise the Western audience is not the target demographic, but if they're putting it out there, they need to make sure that the merchandise is worthy.

Weird shit starts happening to Kan Au immediately, and I was reminded of that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." A "Unique Wonder" may not necessarily be a good thing (in mah-jong, it's a winning hand, like a Royal Flush in poker) – it is something unprecedented and strange. Bodies raining from the sky, for example, is not a good thing. Neither is his pregnant wife suddenly keeling over to be urgently hospitalised. This film then takes a more pronounced turn into the realm of the morality tale – the message being, "be careful for what you wish for, because you just might get it." And by extension, other things you actually need might not come to pass.

Kan Au keeps on winning, but a tremendous moral cost – he's damning himself, basically, because what he's doing is wilfully evil; he knows what will happen, and still does his gambling thing anyway – and the blackly funny slapstick humour of the film, farcical at first, becomes another thing altogether. Just at the point where I was becoming a trifle bored, I got all kinds of interested again. No, don't get all excited, it just meant that the film got a bit better, and more intellectually engaging.

I know that deep in my heart I shouldn't laugh at the line, "There's something abnormal about your wife's fetus," but I'm the guy in school who would tell awful, awful jokes in the worst possible taste, like, "How do you get 500 babies into a Volksawagen? A blender. How do you get them out again? Corn chips." I know I'm going to hell, you needn't tell me.

Kan Au is losing his wife, has lost his child - perhaps, and goes up against Sis Lui, the loan shark who was threatening radical amateur surgery upon our boy, and who appears to be a 250 pound transvestite, in his final game of mah-jong. Kan Au really has absolutely nothing to lose, and by using the cursed coin in the game, is practically making himself into a supernatural hit-man – he knows what it can do.

When he gets to the hospital after the game, things become a bit more complicated, as you'll find out. Y'know, if the director of this film had spent more time on substance and less on style, this could have been a much more effective piece o' work. The resulting film is a mish-mash of horror, black comedy and Takashi Miike style weirdness that never totally gels. Some nice moments – the ending is particularly chilling – but the whole thing just doesn't really click.

Story #2: 13%

Okay, this is just plain fucking annoying. The director here seems to think he's Andrey Iskanov and starts throwing in "stylistic touches" that had me shouting angrily at the TV screen (like it's some kind of magic telephone to the director). The visuals on display are kind of like the viewing equivalent of a scratch on a record, and then another scratch, and then another scratch – do you get the picture? This isn't arty, it's a pain in the hole.

Luk Wing (who is absolutely gorgeous, let me tell you, in a kind of Everygirl kinda way) wakes up in a world where cannibalism is all fine and dandy, and basically wants to survive – the large fire-axe she's armed with is pretty good life insurance. She's having odd memories, or maybe they're moments of prescience; she's not quite sure, but they are definitely violent, THAT much is unmistakable. She starts living out these moments, and the world she's in becomes even more uncertain for the viewer – are these bad guys zombies or what? They sure aren't Romero-esque mindless appetites on legs, and have more than basic muscle memory, but the fact that almost the entire film is played out with zero dialogue makes it kinds hard to judge. The second bad guy she runs into has some serious facial trauma that would make you believe they're zombies, but there's still room for doubt.

Until, of course, we see him with a crow bar shoved through his heart and an axe-blade larger than my freakishly enormous bulbous head rammed into his chest – then his undead status is pretty convincingly confirmed. And then we get the cop-out ending. Man, what a cheat.

Story #3: No. 13

Basically, he said, with increasing impatience, we have a TV show called "Scare 2 Die". People go on it, and have to be last man standing after 13 days in a haunted house to receive US $130000. Not a bad idea for a film, but not a great one either. Chan is the silly cunt who decides this will be a great plan to get rich quick, with all the forethought and nous of Homer Simpson. On the application form, you have to state what your 3 greatest fears are – who tells their adversary what they're scared of? I mean, if I met my enemy and he knew I was terrified of spiders, heights and enclosed spaces, he'd have the advantage, yeah? Oh, I didn't see what I did there…

Damn.

Chan is stupid enough to reveal that he's afraid of dogs, snakes and ghosts and is co-opted into the show without even realising it. What a dumb prick. Mind you, his home life sucks arse, so maybe he's better off here anyway. So, his grandad has been taken off to hospital, and Chan, while not the most family oriented of fellas, goes off to make sure he's okay. You just know this is going to end off badly.

A certain ancient coin turns up and we know that this is going to end up worse than badly. There's no way Chan is going to turn up outta this one well. He goes to talk to his friend Bun, to find which hospital his grandad is at, and Bun won't open the door, stating – and I quote – "No. The return soul of opposite door will be home at midnight." Pardon? Not the most illuminating sentence I've ever heard. Mind you, stick me in China and make me speak Cantonese and you'd get some comedic shit right there, and not just only if you were Chinese. All I'm saying here is that if you're going to subtitle something, test drive it with a native speaker of the language first.

Chan is chased by dogs and ghosts and well, the film comes to its conclusion, unsatisfying as it maybe. Not much chop, and I think you'd be better served by watching one of those constant Ringu clones the J-horror and K-horror movie machines throw at us every week.
Video
A surprisingly poor quality picture quality - soft at best, and I probably could have filmed it better on my mobile phone. Plus the Iskanov meets the Pang brothers (who produced the film, and with whom the director has worked… suddenly it's making sense) camerawork becomes quite irritating. The jumps, the flashbacks, the use of colour - seen it all before. Substance over style, please.
Audio
Serviceable. Not great, but not bad either – kind of hard to tell when you don't speak the lingo. Nice soundtrack.
Extra Features
Not a fuck of a lot – even the average Full Moon disc has more than this – trailers for Scare 2 Die, See You in You Tube and In Love With the Dead, a photo gallery and a featurette of the gala premiere, which is hardly outstanding.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
What a dud. I haven't been this unentertained in a long time. I could probably have had more fun sticking a fork into a live power-socket. There are some good moments of gore, and a couple of good boo-scares, but really, that's not the test of a good horror film. This is kind of like if a first year film student saw a bunch of J and K horror films, a few Pang brothers' films and tried to emulate what they'd seen. Like a three week old curry, this is best avoided. Now I'm going for a taco.

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