A man convinced he murdered his wife is haunted by her ghost. Marketed as Mainland China's first horror movie.
Making a horror film in mainland China is not easy. No ghosts, nothing supernatural, no promotion of superstitious beliefs or practices: the government’s Film Bureau still carefully “protects” domestic cinema from these forbidden topics.
Suffocation (2005) Movie Trailer
The solution? A psychological thriller, in which all manner of ghostly revenants can be sanitarily attributed to a (temporarily) disturbed subject’s mind. It’s a neat trick, and it’s also a legitimate commercial film genre. Director Zhang Bingjian, adeptly using thriller conventions, has made that what effectively amounts to a horror film fit for the mainland market.
High-fashion photographer Shen Xiao – played with unaccustomed gravity and chilling effectiveness by China’s biggest comedy star Ge You – has a problem. His double bass-playing wife Meizi (Qin Hailu, in a silent role highlighting her considerable acting ability) has discovered his affair with a model, and reacts violently, then disappears into the night. Shen enlists the help of his friend (and his friend’s car, which returns mysteriously carrying Meizi’s abandoned shoes) to find his wife. Things intensify when, haunted by recurring memories, or perhaps they’re illusions, of his wife’s violent murder and terrifying reappearance, Shen seeks the aid of an elegant older woman upstairs (the superbly spooky Li Bin, in a big change from her usual affable granny roles). She turns out to be a Freudian psychoanalyst, and leads Shen deep into his disturbed sub-conscious.
Stylish, dark photography, almost minimalist dialogue, and some beautifully captured memory-images (in particular one stunning recurring one of Shen’s near drowning) set an eerily menacing mood, punctured with small-scale shocks and laced with a surreal lyricism. Horror-suspense, PRC-style, for a film market of growing openness and sophistication.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival