RaEL Film Guide

Inner Senses
Dir: Lo Chi-Leung
(Comstar DVD/Region 3/Dialogue in Mandarin or Cantonese/Subtitles in English, Chinese or Malay/Extras: Theatrical trailer, photo gallery, The Making Of Inner Senses)

When it was announced that Johnny To was making a horror movie with Sammi Cheng and Lau Ching Wan (aka Sean Lau), and with a title like My Left Eye Sees Ghosts to boot, fans were relishing an enjoyable time at the movies. But the film was so pedestrian in its set up and both Sammi Cheng and Lau were practically doing those roles for so long now, there was little to excite anyone's imagination. The worst crime was that - it just wasn't scary or funny at all. To put it mildly, it couldn't even hold a joss-stick to some of the better Troublesome Night entries.

It seems that after Sixth Sense, any one with a third eye or only one eye is seeing ghosts. Such is the case in Inner Senses and suicidal Karena Lam's Yan is no exception. There is an attempt to explain the phenomenon (the film tries for an X-Files feel by trying to scientifically explain away things) but logic goes only so far in this movie. Psychiatrist Wilson (Waise Lee), who is married to Yan's cousin, recommends therapist Jim (Leslie Cheung), who does a good job of helping Yan deal with her problems. But like a Hitchcockian tale, things are never what they seem. Jim has so successfully deep-sixed his own past that it only surfaces to haunt him when he's asleep. Now, it's Yan's turn to help Jim.

Structurally, there are two ghost stories - or two protagonists who see different ghosts. The potential for horror is there but director Lo Chi-Leung has decided to go the creepy route instead of full-blown graphic violence or horror (the ghostly make-up could have given Dick (Exorcist) Smith nightmares - it's that amateurish looking. Meanwhile, there is a certain restraint in not shocking the audience - there are a number of places where other filmmakers would have no qualms jolting the audience with cheap scares but Lo just moved along. A case in point is the scene where Yan and Jim are clutching each other and with the camera giving Jim's point of view. He sees a ghost slowly emerging from behind Yan and any number of things could have happened then but they don't. Still, there are other moments to creep you out - mud-caked ghosts stepping out of the bath; a long-haired Ring-like wraith (from the Japanese Ring, not Tolkien's) rising from the floor; a ghost peering at you from an overtaking vehicle; and the one that takes the cake - and he's not even a ghost - landlord Norman Tsui Siu-Keung as he prepares and waits for the return of his departed wife and child.

A good gauge of a horror movie is whether you're willing to watch it alone at night. With Inner Senses, you'd certainly want to watch it with company (at least until the final reel). - Stephen Tan

Note: It's unfortunate that The Making Of Inner Senses featurette does not have any English subtitles. Unlike other making-of shorts, there is some ingenuity here as both Leslie Cheung and Karena Lam speak in character - it's like they are explaining what they (as real characters) went through in the making of the movie.

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