Film review: The Tag-Along 2 – Rainie Yang, Hsu Wei-ning contemplate motherhood in superior horror sequel
Director Cheng Wei-hao offers few surprises for horror fans, but a more engaging story and solid performances from model-turned-actress Hsu and the rest of the cast set up a bigger box office take than the first 2015 film
After it wreaked havoc at Taiwan’s box office in late 2015 and became the highest-grossing horror film to emerge from the island in a decade, there was never any doubt that The Tag-Along was going to spawn a sequel – especially after up-and-coming director Cheng Wei-hao failed to impress when he branched out into crime mystery with the contrived Who Killed Cock Robin earlier this year.
And while Cheng’s feature debut managed to stir up hype with its allusion to an urban legend from 1998 – involving footage of a creepy little girl in a red dress following a group of hikers on a mountain trail in Taichung, one of whom died soon afterwards – there’s no mistaking that film for anything more than a barrage of genre clichés, before it turned into a full-blown supernatural horror in its last reel.
One regret about The Tag-Along 2, again directed by Cheng, is that it has little to surprise horror fans: expect ghostly figures hovering in the background – when they’re not jumping right at the protagonists. Still, this is already a far more engaging narrative, at once fleshing out the girl’s backstory and elaborating on the mother-daughter complex introduced in the first film. It would surprise no one to see this surpass the 2015 film in box office figures.
Soon after she visits the emotionally disturbed woman Mei-hua (Francesca Kao Hui-chun), who has covered everything in her flat with exorcism spells and kept her little daughter locked up for ages, social worker Shu-fen (Rainie Yang Cheng-lin) – herself a single mother who gave birth at a young age – runs into a problem closer to home when she finds her underage daughter, Ya-ting (Ruby Zhan Wan-ru), pregnant.
Upon defying her mother’s wish for an abortion, Ya-ting vanishes into the mountains – palpably under the influence of the girl in red. Venturing into the woods with a rescue team, Shu-fen instead finds Yi-chun (Hsu Wei-ning), lead of The Tag-Along, in an utterly revolting state. So can Shu-fen rescue her daughter? Will Yi-chun see her fiancé and grandma again? And how does Mei-hua factor into all this?
Although The Tag-Along 2 is short of creative scares – an all-too convenient, albeit visually intriguing riff on provincial folklore sees Ya-ting’s boyfriend (Wu Nien-hsuan) moonlighting as a local medium who specialises in channelling a formidable, tigerlike deity – the film qualifies as more than passable entertainment with its tightly woven storylines and strong performances across a uniformly solid cast.
In particular, it is gratifying to see Hsu build on her breakout role in The Tag-Along with this consistently unnerving part, appearing either haunted or demonically possessed in most of her scenes. The model-turned-actress’s growing enthusiasm for the material will prove an asset to the series’ inevitable third instalment.
The Tag-Along 2 opens on September 21
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