I was real pleased to see the Pang Brothers redeem themselves with “Re-Cycle”. Now, Oxide Pang Shun is all by his lonesome directing “DIARY” (2006), although brother Danny is close by as co-producer. This film is not your usual long-haired ghosts and white make up, it is more about the workings of a disturbed mind. The film does look like it is a film of great quality, creepy atmosphere and a good acting from one half of the pop duo, “Twins”; Charlene Choi. However, the film’s good production values does not match the quality of its script and direction.
Winnie Yeung (Charlene Choi) is a young woman who had been recently dumped by her boyfriend, Seth Lau. Comforted by her friend, (played by Isabella Leong, Mummy 3) Winnie is adamant on meeting someone else--enter Ray Fan (Shawn Yue),who according to Winnie looks very similar to Seth. Looks like a match based on a bad idea right? Well, Winnie is a woman who suffers from delusions that borders on schizophrenia--she suffers hallucinations and has a fixation on dolls and puppets which would make things a lot complicated. But how does Yvonne Ho fit into all this?
It is very difficult to review this film without giving spoilers, not because it is complex stuff but it is just so predictable. The film is meant to be a cerebral experience and a good psychological thriller--so what makes one effective in this genre? It needs solid direction with well-developed rules that set the groundwork. The film doesn’t misdirect, director Oxide Pang shows us that Winnie is very delusional and is mentally imbalanced early on; complete with seeing a dark cloud, imaginary earthquake, walking puppets with a voiceover that defines delusional people. So just what is real and what isn’t? The film’s premise is intriguing enough but it misleads in the cheapest ways.
The problems begin when the rules and groundwork aren’t laid down by the script and further made worst by the screenplay and direction. So, I guess color isn’t real and black and white is--no, this wasn’t established by the direction. Hints of what is real are told by flashbacks? No, because Winnie is so unhinged that some of her own flashbacks are fantasy. So is the “Diary” the real truth, well, it was, until it was revealed that it has entries that take place a year into the future. I supposed this was an attempt by the director to give the audience the impression that Winnie’s mental state was beyond retrieval. But when it does go full circle, I saw “Produced by the Pang Bros.” as if the film was ending--nope it doesn’t. This is where everything gets revealed and given answers, well, at least it does attempt to anyway. The answer is neither shocking nor impressive, it borders on becoming an annoyance that I had difficulties of buying into it. Why? Poor characterization, abundance of plot holes, it comes so short of being credible, no groundwork and the puppet behind the wall just felt that it was a “visual candy“. It seeks to set the groundwork by displaying an abundance of flashbacks, that some rules introduced were just fantasy. I could go on and on with its flaws, it was intriguing enough, but it tried really hard to misdirect on its final resolution by a very cheap trick--cheap because it lacked so much credibility.
However, the acting by Charlene Choi does keep the film from becoming a total lost. Choi was very good in her portrayal. She is creepy and quite convincing with her role as a mentally imbalanced young beautiful woman. She has a very innocent-like charisma and it fit her role as one trying to hide an imbalanced personality. There is some disturbing imagery, but none that we haven’t seen before. The atmosphere and cinematography has that greenish hue that promotes a dark and unsettling feel. When it comes to style, the Pangs definitely does has the technical know how. The locale of the film are in very minor locations, and I like a setting that is kept simple.
I really didn’t think that this film is successful in delivering what it wanted to. The twists were haunting at first look, but for those very adulterated to a “Sixth Sense” or the Norwegian thriller “Next Door’s” manipulations would find that the film falters. After the bewildering explanations, the twist felt it lacked necessity and it felt that it had no weight behind it. There is some tension generated on some scenes and some plot build ups, but it was all for naught since it was obvious. All the film does demonstrate is just how disturbed and mentally ill Winnie truly is, and the final shocking element in the final act is just pointless because there is no solid groundwork that it is missing needed narrative impact. Also, what is up with the utterly annoying “Directed by Oxide Pang” deal before the film ends almost 23 minutes after? Oh, maybe it was meant to warn us that it was going to go downhill….the film has great ambitions, but in this case, good quality is also a delusion I suppose.