After the rather disappointing "The Eye 10" and the abysmal "The Messengers", brothers Oxide and Danny Pang returns with "RE-CYCLE" (2006). The Pang bros. are identical twins who have a similar style of directing but it is also somehow different. The two brothers seemed to have redeemed themselves with great visuals, decent scares and a fresh concept; and with Angelica Lee in the lead role, with a performance that is every bit as great as what she has done in "The Eye", they seal the deal with a Fantasy film with supernatural elements.
Synopsis partially derived from the region-3 dvd back cover:
Chu Xun Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee) is a young writer whose first novel has become a major bestseller in Asia. "RE-CYCLE" is her next book, the first one she's written about the supernatural. Every reader eagerly awaits the publication of her new book since they mostly believe that her writings can bring impact to their lives. Ever since Chu Xun began writing her new book, a lot of unexplained things begin to happen. Later on, the young writer discovers that the heroine of her new book has found her way from the "fictional world" into the real world. One night, Chu gets caught into the "other" existence, a world of mind-bending and intense horror...
What makes Re-Cycle quite special is the fact that the film is a welcome return to the Pang's inimitable style; the heart-pounding soundtrack, the plot build up and the slow reveals; all have made the two brothers pioneers in the books of Hong Kong horror. Their cinematic tricks or technique may seem like a rethread of "The Eye" in its first act but they do pull something new out of their sleeves. The Pangs haven't lost their touch, they still have the skill to create tension in the screenplay. The film does have the same old tricks in its first act but the 2nd act does inspire more suspense and emotion. With Angelica Lee in the lead with a very superb performance, "Re-Cycle" succeeds where "The Eye 2" had failed.
The question is just how and why did Ting-Yin get into this situation in the first place? Just what is this desolate world that she has become entrapped in? The film has a good structure as the plot slowly unfolds. The end result may be a bit predictable to experienced movie watchers but with the film's foreshadowing, the script is quite successful with its goals. The thoughtful screenwriting is successful in generating the thrill and suspense that one may expect from the Pang Bros.; there are quite a number of freaky images specifically when corpses plummet from the sky. The film starts off with lovely Angelica Lee experiencing weird events that ends up with her foray into the supernatural world. Then the film more or less becomes a chase film with lovely Angelica Lee being pursued by ghouls while accompanied by an eight year old girl. The direction goes from the slow-reveal to a heart pounding chase sequence and the actress does a great job in conveying the needed emotions. The cheap scares are used very sparingly and for that, the direction needs to be commended. She befriends an old man who gives her specific instructions on how to get to "The Transit", a supposed spot where one can leave this mysterious world. While this element may seem too convenient, it sure doesn't hamper the film that much.
I've mentioned that the first half is more or less made up of the same gimmicks that made the Pangs famous; slow-moving objects, long haired ghosts but once Ting-Yin enters the desolate world, the film takes on a different pace. What also helps it along is the awesome set designs that looks gorgeous and at the same time downright creepy. The film does have a significant amount of special effects and most of them are nicely done. The only complaint I may have is that their quality may shift from time to time; that some scenes seemed to have a larger budget than some others. Still, the imagery is rendered with exquisite detail for the most part, this desolate world can be gorgeous, impressive and at the same time creepy and horrible. Highlights include a forest with ghouls, a place with giant toys, an old circus, rickety buildings. The film's atmosphere give the film an eerie feel although some of the ghouls look a little too "textbook" that keeps them from being convincingly scary.
Angelica Lee once again shines in this film and her performance may even surpass that one she did in "The Eye" or "Koma". The actress can indeed act and it is very important for a film like this to have a very strong lead actress. Lee expresses all the vital points of emotion when one is caught up with the unknown. The film depends on her reactionary skills and Lee doesn't disappoint with her very convincing performance. Ting Yin's (Angelica Lee) links to this desolate world may open a lot of questions and the film does answer them in its own fashion. These links may be a little predictable and truth be told, it isn't unique at all. But the emotions are felt, and it goes without saying that Lee is responsible. "Re-Cycle" is a huge success because of Angelica Lee.
"Re-Cycle's" climax may have a finality that could leave some folks scratching their heads, but if you have been paying attention to its entirety, it does make perfect sense. The film does give all the details throughout, and the Pangs did give the rules that apply to this alternate world. The plot ‘twist' in the final act may prove to be a little confusing but it does come together once you apply the Pang's logic. The climax will inspire pseudo-intellectuals to take notice, something that the Pang's previous installments never could.
After, the abysmal "The Messengers" and the disappointing "The Eye 10", audiences wouldn't be hard-pressed to think that Pang have lost their touch. No, the two brothers are very much alive and "Re-Cycle" proves that they can still involve and excite with a horror-fantasy film--hey, with Angelica Lee in the lead, you can‘t expect anything less.
Recommended! [4- Stars]
Note: This film was released before the Pang Bros.' "Diary" and "Forest of Death"
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