Visible Secret II

The title might lead one to think that this has some relation to the first Visible Secret, but it really doesn’t other than the fact that both deal with the supernatural and that the director of the first, Ann Hui, is the producer of this one. Visible Secret I was one of my favorite films from 2001 as Hui painted a very melancholy and claustrophobic view of post-Handover Hong Kong with what appears to be a nostalgic and critical subtext beneath the surface. Under the direction of Abe Kwong this second film is a much more straightforward tale of the supernatural with seemingly no political allegory within. This film also doesn’t capture the stunning visual textures or dreamlike atmospherics of the first film. So while still a solid film in most aspects, it was a disappointing letdown from my expectations after the first film.
After exchanging vows that “Whatever happens, I will always be there for you” newlyweds Eason Chan and Jo Koo move into a new apartment. Immediately things appear a bit off as the security guard gives them a funny look upon learning their apartment number, a neighbour (David Lee) seems to be up to some odd secretive things and an old spooky lady (Helen Law Lan) is constantly seen by Eason sitting on a bench below staring at their window.  Things quickly get worse though as Eason goes out to a convenience store – his wedding rings slips off and rolls into the street – he bends down to get it – a woman screaming in the distance distracts him – and he gets hit by a car.
Miraculously he survives and Jo slowly nurses him back to health, but his world begins to become unhinged. The lights in the apartment go on and off on their own, when he sneezes he sees sudden flashes of himself lying at the accident, he sees neighbours that died long ago, his friend seems to be losing his mind and his wife appears possessed by some unruly spirit from the past and writes out “dead” hundreds of times. An old friend (Cherrie Yin) of his shows up and he relates his worries to her. They begin to investigate these strange occurrences by following Jo and discover some rather peculiar things about her past – a suicide, a mental illness - but what does it all mean?
Of course if you have seen enough of the recent spate of horror films there is a strong suspicion lodged in the back of your brain that all is not what it appears – is it all a dream of a dying man i.e. Jacobs Ladder or is one of the main characters not at all what they seem to be – perhaps possessed, mad or even dead. The intrigue of the film is in trying to sort through all the false leads of which there are many and arrive at the truth. Unfortunately, the film gives the viewer two, big fat clues that one should pick up on fairly easily and so the final revelation should not come as much of a surprise. Like a number of other Hong Kong horror films of late – such as The Eye and Inner Senses – there is no real evil presence here – it is much more about having to come to terms with life, with the past, with where one is now – than an attempt to wreck havoc.
The focus of the film is really on Eason and I have to admit to having a bit of a problem with this because I just don’t find him a very interesting actor – his placid face and leaden acting leave me constantly impatient. Jo Koo on the other hand is very interesting with her multi-faceted angular face and subtle emotional range, but her character takes a back mysterious seat during much of the film – but a few sudden close ups of her face are indeed creepy and leave you wanting more. Cherrie Yin is a recent nice find – appearing in The Wall, Dance of a Dream and Full Time Killer – and her sweet open clean looks and engaging smile are used for good effect in this film.

My rating for this film: 6.5