Saturday, October 24, 2015

Film Review: Tales From The Dark 2 (2013)

Tales From The Dark 2 (Review)
China/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Instant: No
Amazon Prime: Yes
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"Some of the endings may be lacking, but it ultimately leaves a strong impression — much stronger than the first film."

A horror anthology featuring three tales: Pillow, Hide and Seek, and Black Umbrella.

Tales From The Dark 2 begins with Pillow. This first short film follow Ching-yi (Fala Chen) and her boyfriend Hong (Gordon Lam). The couple bump heads when Hong finds out Ching-yi has been snooping. After their altercation, Hong vanishes and Ching-yi finds herself incapable of sleeping... until she buys a new pillow that allows her to see Hong in her dreams. Hide and Seek follows a group of friends who visit their old school on the eve of its demolition. They decide to play a game of Master and Ghost, which is similar to hide and seek, but find they may not be alone in the barren school. Black Umbrella follows Uncle Lau (Teddy Robin), a man who seeks to accomplish good deeds in a world filled with wrongdoings. When he crosses paths with a prostitute, Lau finds himself pushed to his limits.

Tales From The Dark 2 is a strong sequel to a decent anthology. Pillow tells a chilling story of envy and lust. The short film offers some strong characters, an ambiguous but effective plot, and some disturbing scenes. Its themes also help set it apart from the same ol' ghost stories we've grown accustomed to. There are some spine-tingling scenes here and there and some surprises. The ending was a bit abrupt, though. The rest of the plot leaves a compelling impression, but the ending felt unfulfilling.

Hide and Seek is a more traditional ghost story. It really doesn't delve into any uncharted territory and the moral of the plot is fairly simple. However, the general concept of the film works well in bolstering an otherwise hollow narrative. The idea of playing with ghosts whenever you play hide and seek is chilling and it works. For the most part, Hide and Seek is mostly reliant on jump-scares and some ominous visuals, like a ghost standing in the background. Although it doesn't break any ground, this film was probably the most effective in terms of surface horror – one of the jump-scares actually startled me!

Like Pillow, Black Umbrella is also a bit ambiguous in its story. I believe this is the shortest of this set, but it takes its time in crafting its story – it really takes time to buildup to its climax. As we follow Lau's journey, we see lingering apparitions and human evil – the wrongdoings Lau tries to correct. There are some jump-scares and some eerie visuals, the latter being a bit too ambiguous to really hit home. The climax is actually shocking from a visual standpoint.

The acting was generally good. Fala Chen does very well as the bitter girlfriend, Gordon Lam is very strong in his supporting role, and Teddy Robin is great. Some of the scenes are a little too dark in terms of actual lightning, especially during Hide and Seek, but it's otherwise a decent looking film. The music doesn't have a personality of its own, but I certainty noticed it during Black Umbrella – it helps with the climax. Again, these short films are based on short stories by Lilian Lee. The screenplays this time around, although occasionally lacking, are stronger than the previous installment. The same goes for the direction. Gordon Chan, Lawrence Lau, and Teddy Robin offer a variety of horror in a coherent manner.

Overall, Tales From The Dark 2 is a great horror anthology. This set of stories offer plenty of variety in terms of horror and themes. The writing and direction are also stronger than the previous installment. Some of the endings may be lacking, but it ultimately leaves a strong impression — much stronger than the first film. I should note, it's also a bit more violent than TalesFrom The Dark 1. I recommend a rental or cheap purchase for fans of horror anthologies.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some sex and nudity.

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