Movie Review: Re-Cycle (Gwai wik)

A horde of zombies prepares to attack the protagonist of Re-Cycle

This weekend I watched a crazy Horror/Fantasy movie from Hong Kong called Re-Cycle.  It’s the story of a writer haunted by ghosts who is sucked into an eerie fantasy world of her own devising.  It’s like a cross between The Ring, What Dreams May Come, and the PC game Sanitarium

And also, there are zombies.

Re-Cycle is a high-budget film, and has some great effects shots, but the plotting is oddly iterated, and the shifts in tone are pretty dramatic.  For the first 1/3 of the film, we meet the author and follow her around her spooky apartment as she is haunted by ghostly presences.  It’s right out of The Ring.  There are many jump-out-and-scare-you moments which are masterfully done.  I jumped in my seat more than a few times!

But then, just as you’re settling in for a film with the tone of The Ring, the filmmakers are like, “Surprise!  Now it’s goddamn Labyrinth.  Enjoy!”  And the protagonist is magically transported to a fantasy-land where she meets mystical creatures (some friendly, some zombie) who alternately help and attack her.  The settings are rendered in CGI, but just as fanciful as anything created by Jim Henson or Terry Jones.  (Seriously, I was ready for an Asian David Bowie to show up and start singing.) 

Then, as the film nears its conclusion, it changes tone yet again and waxes disturbingly serious.  And there are, I suppose, some potentially moving discoveries made by the main characters.  However, the tone shifts so much that it’s hard to get in the right mood to cry along with the protagonist.  (It’s like: First you were in a scary horror movie, then you were playing with Fraggles, and now you want my rapt attention as you wax-dramatic about having an abortion?  What?)

"Wow!  A new world to explore and be sad in!"
"Wow! A new world to explore and be sad in!"

You’d think, here, that the tone-shifts would be over… but no. 

At the very last minute, in an O. Henry-style trick ending, the filmmakers are like: “Never mind.  This isn’t working out.  We’re going back to The Ring again.  Boo!” 

And then it ends.

Suffice to say, I can’t recommend this film 100%.  But that’s not to say there are no redeeming qualities.  The monsters and special effects are pretty scary, and the zombies are really good-looking.  In some cases they are just a little “off” in subtle ways that make them even more freaky.  (Like they have unnaturally-long necks, or arrive hanging from trees.)  My favorite scene in Re-Cycle is during the “Labyrinth-phase” when the writer and her friend must cross a bridge full of zombies who will not detect them as long as they do not breathe.  It’s really scary and effectively done.  (Would that I could say that about the rest of the film.)

In conclusion, please consider this blog as giving Re-Cycle a middling review.  Two-and-a-half stars, Etc.  The movie was beautifully shot, and had some pretty cool zombies, but the abrupt tone shifts were just too much for me.

"I heard you weren't feeling sad enough, so I brought a bunch of zombies."
"I heard you weren't feeling sad enough, so I brought a bunch of zombies."

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