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ǽ (2009)
The Unbelievable

Reviewed by: Brian Thibodeau
Date: 11/24/2009
Summary: Animal cruelty alert!

Sensationalistic feature-length "documentary" spinoff from Hong Kong's popular, long-running reality TV series KUAI DAN spices up the usual ghost hunting antics with nudity, live animal slaughter and gruesome images of victims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, making this decidedly not for all tastes. Current series regulars Master Szeto, an expert in all things otherworldly who usually pronounces weird events to be authentic based on the shakiest of evidence, and the lovely Rachel Chan, lip gloss at the ready, lead their telegenic crew of ghost busters to Thailand and Singapore—both longtime rich resources for Hong Kong filmmakers keen on perpetuating stereotypes about the third-world poverty, ignorance, superstition and all-around dangerousness of their neighbors—where they're treated to a distasteful parade of charlatans who perform nauseating rituals in the name of their beliefs, but precious little evidence of spirit life that couldn't be faked by careful pre-planning and offscreen crew members rigging doors to close by themselves and mirrors to fall off walls. In 5.1 surround sound in a darkened room, these moments may make you jump, even while they convince you of nothing. Ersatz "subplot" involving the demonic possession of one female member of the crew is eerily similar to—albeit far more elaborately plotted than—an incident in the first installment of the cheapjack Singaporean direct-to-video series LEGEND ABOUT HUNTING GHOST, itself a sexed-up rip-off of KUAI DAN. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the all-nude "charisma" ritual performed by a Thai hermaphrodite—actually a ladyboy with a botched boob job—upon a needy prostitute who shakes down the production company for the cost of the service! Improved digital video production values, enhanced "storytelling" techniques, and Lincoln Lo's overbearingly "suspenseful" music score are welcome sensory boosts over the TV series but tend to point up the suspect nature of the production.

Reviewer Score: 4