Studio: Tartan Asia Extreme
WorkNameSort: Silk

One of the promotional quotes on the box art for Tartan's release of Silk, ostensibly in praise of the movie, reads 'The realism of White Noise with the sheer terror of The Eye.â?� Some pull-quote. Lumping Silk in the category of these two heaps of supernatural swill will do nothing but discourage potential horror fans from thinking twice about removing the title from the shelves at Blockbuster. Silk is a far more interesting film than those two combined; a better likeness might be to the frightening and cerebral genre films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the greatest master working in horror cinema today.

As in several of Kurosawa's movies, a police investigation of paranormal activity is at the heart of the plot. A group of scientists with access to a groundbreaking material called the Menger Sponge have used the technology to detect ghosts. They trap the creepy ghost of a boy in a room and monitor his every move, enlisting the film's hero ' a cop named Tung (Chen Chang) who has a heightened sense of sight and an ability to read lips ' to solve the mystery of the dead boy: to find out how he died, where he's buried and why he keeps reverting to the same pattern of movement.

Tung is also dealing with a moral dilemma. His mother, comatose from ALS, is surviving as a vegetable, kept alive only by her son's wishes. What could be a maudlin, preachy contrivance in a lesser movie is perfectly valid here, woven subtly into the film's existential questioning of life, death and the afterlife.

In the making-of featurette on this disc, writer/director Chao-Bin Su talks about his intent to make a ghost movie like no other, and to some extent he achieves this goal. Silk works as a ghost thriller, to be sure; it's just scary enough to qualify as acceptable in the Asian horror tradition of quality. But it really excels because of its pathos. Silk is propelled by an underlying layer of humanity too often lost in films as gory as this. Each moment of bloodshed is balanced by an equally stunning pang of melancholy. The closing-credits music seems to reflect this duality, starting with a panic-induced bludgeoning and easing into the sweet tinkling of piano.

Silk isn't perfect. Not all of Su's plot twists work. One character's sick and perverse turn feels like an action-movie concession, and another's escape from a surely life-ending car crash would have Steven Seagal shaking his head in disbelief. These elements, along with a curiously fable-like conclusion, take away from the complexity ' and perplexity ' of the film's visionary merging of science fiction and science fact. In the end, though, they do little to diminish the overall impact of this ambitious anti-ghost flick. If anything, Silk suffers from an overabundance of ideas, the most refreshing flaw a film can have.


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