Film Reviews:

July 13th

(Wellson Chin, HK, 1996)

A typically uneven Hong Kong ghost story, this one is more police investigation than all-action but it does have its eerie sequences. A womanising police officer nicknamed 'Pierre' is teamed up with one of his many ex-girlfriends, Laura, to investigate the supposed suicide of a young schoolgirl. It quickly becomes apparent that it was no ordinary suicide and that there are similarities with several other cases, and an old woman is repeatedly seen at the funerals of each of the victims. After consulting with a supposedly psychic criminal in a mental institution the investigation leads the police to the ghost of an old woman who passes a book called "The Manual of Suicide" to those who are at a low point in their lives, who are then unable to stop themselves from commiting suicide.

The basic premise is a good one - something like M.R. James' classic tale Casting of the Runes - whereby those given a document suffused with evil are ill-fated. The beginning is seriously moody but, as is norm for this genre in Hong Kong, it frequently phases in an out of farce. Director Wellson Chin is not too proud to throw in a few fart gags just for a cheap laugh or two. David Wu is amusing as Pierre and Michele Reis is a gorgeous (Maggie Chung look-a-like) and talented lead female and the two play off each other well. The obviously low-budget and cheap effects work doesn't detract from the brief moments of creepy tension but it'll probably only be of real interest to those who are already fans of the HK ghost genre.

Rob Dyer