The intimate and culturally significant Asian approach towards the supernatural in the 1990s was a breath of fresh air -- an unquestionable mark of artistry in a genre grown lazy with self-satisfaction. Alas it began to lose something of its vitality (if not its beauty) once detestable US companies set the wheels of the Asian Remake machine in motion. To make matters worse, Asian filmmakers themselves began to exchange originality for formula, making movies of 'other movies' rather than forging new pathways into the darkness. Long haired revenants, cursed technology, and grudges have lost their uniqueness, overexposure pushing their themes into the stagnant realm of the clich´┐Ż. Yet despite this over-saturation, the Asian ghost story hasn't been put to rest quite yet. Ghosts as a cinematic subject, and the supernatural phenomena associated with them, remain powerful symbols of literary exploration and entertainment, investigating/symbolizing areas of the human condition that other metaphors lack both the willingness or strength to explore. When a unique perspective injects these archetypal nightmares into contemporary culture, the ghost story can be both entertainment and art. While not quite philosophical or emotional enough o be considered high art, Silk, the newest release from Tartan Asia Extreme, IS a booster shot to the genre. A genuinely horrifying experience that takes its scares straight without a chaser, this hybrid of various genres manages to make the old new again.

The plot of Silk reaches above its grasp, but not enough to derail the overall the general story. Ye Qi-Dong is a sharpshooter for a Taiwanese police team, praised for his ability to read lips, his sharp vision, and, most importantly, a fierce determination. When asked to trap a ghost, he finds the world he thought he knew transformed by perception and science. His employer is Hashimoto, a physicist who has created 'the Menger Sponge,' a cube-like structure built from human proteins that can trap electromagnetic energy. Hashimoto needs Ye Qi-Dong to trap a ghost for him, thereby allowing him to harness an infinite source of energy (all of this is rather admirably explained by the script's pseudo-science). Hashimoto is also obsessed with the ghost of a child, curious how he can sustain his spirit while most people simply de-energize after physical death. At first hostile and unbelieving, Ye agrees to aid the scientific team in hopes of learning what his dying mother's fate will be. Along the way conspiracies rear their ugly head, Ye's personal life worsens, and a vengeful spectral child shows his displeasure by crushing people to death.

Silk is a terrifying cocktail of science and the supernatural, enriching the supernatural genre by instilling it with concerns and conventions of various other cinematic traditions. Thankfully, the director juggles these distinct approaches with skill and dexterity, merging threads of character and action into a satisfying whole. Not only a tragedy or ghost story, Silk also manages to be an actioneer and science fiction opus. The plot is complex enough to raise the whole affair above the simplistic 'curse' story pattern but not so intricate so as to confuse. Themes such as concern for ones parents, guilt, and the quest for knowledge mirror the immediate supernatural/scientific plot (and lend it further depth). The shadow drenched atmosphere-- always disturbing -- mirrors the sombre, mournful, and obsessed nature of the characters whose motivations are grounded in burning inner desires. A modern interpretation, in part, of Faustus, both Hashimoto and Ye are anti-heroes plunging into areas of forbidden knowledge, attempting to harness secrets for personal motivations. This added dimension of the mythical injects the narrative with cosmic scope. Silk breaks from the shadow of Ringu and other recent horror hits. Writer-director Su Chao-Bin has improved the writing/directing skills first displayed in Double Vision. Still apparent, and quite interesting, is his penchant for scientifically explaining the supernatural. In the end, it is not only what we see but also what we feel that rules our perception, and scenes of a malignant ghost child trying to squeeze the life out of various living people are menacingly memorable. The images will stick with you.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Tartan Asia Extreme (USA)
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review