Details: (M), 104 mins, Hong Kong,
Synopsis: For years, Yee has had the same haunting dream – she would stand on a wasteland all by herself in an air of eeriness. Her nightmares only get worse and one day she wakes to find trails of mud by her bed. She suspects she really did kill someone on that wasteland in her sleep. Au, a police sergeant, interrogates Yee about her missing ex-husband. Yee is convinced that she has killed the unfaithful man by a repressed trauma deep in her psyche rebounds. Au suspects Yee’s dream is related to her missing nephew’s kidnap. Following the clues in her dream, Au finds the crime scene, but the body isn’t buried at the spot where it’s supposed to be…
Horror great slumbers through psychic/detective thriller.
Oxide Pang’s plodding, overwrought thriller melds somnambulism with cop-shop dramatics but it never convinces. Grinding through absurd psychic/detective tropes, it’s another dud (after Child’s Eye) from one half of what used to be Hong Kong cinema’s most exciting double-act.
At the centre of the narrative is lonely 30-something Yi (the director’s wife, Lee Sinje), still grieving her missing daughter of two years and recently taken to nocturnal strolls, from which she awakens muddied and dazed. She has a friend in Eric (Li Zong Han), but some cornball acting indicates he knows more about the child’s fate than he’s letting on. That’s no spoiler, as Sleepwalker is not so much a ‘whodunit’ as a how-and-why-they-did-it, and the approach seriously undermines any opportunity for suspense.
The subplot involves Peggy (Charlie Young), a distraught mother who paid a ransom for the return of her missing son, only the boy remains lost. When the spunky and stoic detective Sargeant Au (Huo Si Yan) investigates the all-but-cold case, she crosses paths with Yi and her night visions and decides to employ a hypnotist to tap into our heroine’s repressed dream-state... in the hope of finding a lead... which leads to a red-eyed dream dog... and a suitcase in the woods... and on and on and on it goes...
Fans might contend that Pang’s film explores themes of grief, memory and redemption, but no scene really examines them in detail. He doesn’t have anything fresh or insightful to say, but that doesn’t stop him from saying it loudly and constantly. A mid-section sequence set in a playground, involving Yi’s fixation on a little girl that she imagines to be hers, is played so operatically it descends into hilarity. The finale also offers up some unintentional laughs, when a lithe stuntman doubles for a fat bad guy (fat bad actor Kent Cheng) on a foot-chase through Hong Kong alleyways.
The most minor of characters have unwieldy, unnecessary back stories, (e.g. the hypnotist has a comatose wife from a horrible car crash for no discernible reason), and the hodge-podge of caricatures played by poor actors greatly limit emotional involvement. Worst of all, there are just too many dumb movie moments to forgive: plot coincidences, procedural police work that rings false, a flurry of exposition to wrap things up.
One of the biggest disappointments is the representation of images from a sleepwalker’s mind; after having given us the iconic Eye films, creepy night scenes and ethereal woodland settings should have been simple for Oxide Pang. But jerky-cam, jump-cuts and colour-correction is all the once-great horror leader offers to convey the tortured mind of their sleeping protagonist and, frankly, it just doesn’t cut it.
The post-production 3D conversion is woeful as well. With all the hand-held camerawork and shot compositions full of dark corners and single light sources, Pang was clearly not concerned with how his film would look in a third dimension.
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