Horror Hotline . . . Big Head Monster


If you haven’t completely tired of the myriad of urban legend horror films that have followed on the heels of Blair Witch Project and The Ring, you may want to give this low budget film a chance. There were no expectations on my part regarding this offering – but with a solid cast of Francis Ng, Sam Lee and Josie Ho I figured it might be worth a few ludicrous laughs. I could not have been more wrong. The film burrows into its subject with almost a manic seriousness and doesn’t allow even one false note of humor to creep in.  Considering that this urban legend deals with a big headed baby one has to wonder how the cast kept a straight face – but even taking into account the absurdity of every one being terrorized by a big headed baby - the film managed to keep me up way past my bed time and send the occasional chill coursing through my body. I am not sure what this means – but I found both The Ring and Blair Witch to be disappointingly dull and could not imagine how anyone found them scary – no doubt if anyone sees this they might say the same about me and this film – “you let a big headed baby creep you out?” The film is nearly all suggestion as very little of a horror nature is actually shown.
Part of the effectiveness of this film lies in the very good performances given by the three main leads (though in truth Sam’s role is only a large cameo) and also a few memorable ones by some of the supporting actors – the medium and the old nurse (Bonnie Wong). They all approach their roles with total sincerity as they react to the events that begin to take shape around them. It is so refreshing to see this in a Hong Kong horror film where so often they find it necessary to throw in at least one character who supplies the supposed comic relief. The real revelation here is Josie Ho who has been wasted in a number of supporting bits since her bravura performance in Purple Storm. Switching back and forth between Cantonese and excellent English, she drives the film with an energetic and straight-ahead performance. She also looks terrific in her boyish haircut and the camera stays on her face for considerable screen time and her moments of fear and sadness are palpable.
Director Cheang Pou-soi – who also helmed the effective low budget Diamond Hill – makes wonderful use of a limited budget. Most of the film takes place in an office, an apartment, a deserted warehouse and a hospital room – but within this limited claustrophobic space he utilizes excellent camera movement, oblique up close angles,  décor (the way he makes Ng’s apartment so sterile by having everything white is a great touch) and off setting colors to create a consistently apprehensive mood.
Francis is a producer of a late night radio show called Horror Hotline in which people call in with things that have happened to them of a frightening nature. Josie Ho has come from America to make a TV segment about the show – and her two assistants are gweilos thus leading to her speaking English at times. One evening while she is filming, a caller phones in with a tale that took place when he was in third grade. He along with six other students and a teacher came across something incredibly terrible one afternoon some twenty years ago. And then in a hoarse terrified whisper he says it was a big headed baby and hangs up.
They don’t think much of it until they begin getting a number of calls from other listeners also relating tales they had heard of this same legend. Josie thinks this will give her segment a great angle and pushes Ng into reluctantly investigating the story. What follows is a tale of insanity, possession, communicating with the dead, a faceless woman and a caged creature. At the same time, Ng’s girlfriend (Niki Chow) is a nurse and one of her patients is a catatonic Sam Lee who is only able to draw a picture  . . . of a big headed baby. The film has two endings available on the DVD which comes to a stop and allows you to choose one (the second one is cooler) – but I have to say that both made little sense as both confusingly devolve completely into a Blair Witch homage.

My rating for this film: 7.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by Mei Ah

The transfer is fine - even the dark scenes look good. During one scene the sound disappears for a minute or less.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks - Dolby surround sound

9 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese or English or none.

There is a trailer for this film - and one for United We Stand, Swim.

The menu has both endings.

There is a Making of section (which follows the trailer for this film).