Film review: Are You Here summons clichés with an Ouija board

Hong Kong director Jil Wong’s latest film is not as dreadful as his previous two efforts, and he takes his time to build up the tension in this horror story

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 October, 2015, 11:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 October, 2015, 12:25pm

A supernatural horror flick with minimal care for originality, Are You Here establishes its creepy premise early with the Chinese equivalent of an Ouija spirit board, but then imprudently settles for a very hackneyed revenge story about the ghost of a raped and murdered schoolgirl. It’s a testament to the writers’ slapdash notion of vengeance that the killer isn’t even part of this movie.

The chaos begins when the dead girl is summoned by some college kids with an Ouija board at the crime scene. Meanwhile, with Min (Jacqueline Chong Si-man) left heartbroken by her gambling-addicted boyfriend Lung (Sammy Sum Chun-hin) and contemplating a second abortion, Lung and his two partners at their cash-strapped software firm find a lifeline in a wealthy new client (Nina Paw Hee-ching).

After the trio take up her order to develop an Ouija mobile app, there begin spooky sightings that inevitably bring to mind various turn-of-the-century Japanese horror films. The protagonists soon look set to be killed off one by one – unless Min’s chain-smoking aunt (Susan Siu Yam-yam), a funeral supplies store owner, can suddenly turn into an exorcist and stop the haunting.

After the dreadful S for Sex, S for Secrets and Love Detective, director Jil Wong Pak-kei looks to have partly found his footing in his third collaboration of the year with Patrick Kong Pak-leung, who is again one of the producers and scriptwriters – and who even smugly kicks off Are You Here’s closing credits with the boldface “A Patrick Kong film”, as if that’s any kind of comfort for the viewers.

Although Wong admirably avoids jump scares and takes his sweet time to build up tension – a departure from Kong’s hyperactive approach – it’s sad to then see him hit the audience with the feeblest of climatic set-pieces. While a monologue by Paw about a married couple confronting death provides the film’s most intriguing moment, it looks agonisingly out of character in hindsight.

Are You Here opens on October 29