The critically lauded The Eye (見鬼) and its sequels has brought the Pang brothers fame among horror enthusiasts eagerly awaiting their next collaboration. For their most technically accomplished project to date, the duo reunites with award-winning actress Lee Sin-je (who is the girlfriend of Oxide Pang) in Re-cycle (鬼域), a horror/fantasia flick that does more than to shock and scare. It also takes a look into the human nature.
Selected to close the official Un Certain Regard section at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Re-cycle revolves around a successful young writer named Ting-yi (played by Lee) whose romantic novel is a best-seller in Southeast Asia. Infusing her life experiences into her works, Ting-yi suffers a bad case of creative block as she gets down to the next book, titled “Re-cycle,” that delves into the realm of supernatural forces. When she deletes the file of the opening chapter from the computer, she begins to be plagued with inexplicable visions and strange events that are seemingly lifted from her discarded work.
The boundary between reality and imagination is blurred, and it is not long before Ting-yi is drawn into an alternative dimension where anything discarded and forgotten in our world waits for their existence to come to an end. Guided by a small girl, she travels through this dimension until she reaches Transit, the way back home. During this journey she gradually realizes that the “Ghost Land” is in fact her own.
Re-cycle can been seen as two films within one as the fist half is quintessential Pang with the familiar scenes of long hair, water imagery and expert use of shadows and light coupled with an eerie sound track designed to make the heartbeat skip.
But the ghost story with all the usual horror elements quickly turns into a CG Alice in the Wonderland adventure as Ting-yi traverses through the computer-generated settings chock full of visually arresting and morbid visions from a twisted dream. It's a beautiful visual feast in cold, drained colors. The slum-like deserted streets, dilapidated Hong Kong tenement buildings, discarded old toys, a ferris wheel and a house of aborted fetus are all there to awe and hypnotize.
While risking the accusation of favoring style over substance, the film nevertheless creates an apocalyptic world of the abandoned and forgotten that echoes with the central theme of the film. The main idea of the film arise from computers that have deleted files stored somewhere on the hard-drive. The Ghost Land serves as a repository for the forgotten such as toys, ideas, people, knowledge, feelings, emotions and memories that refuse to be overwritten by new content.
Grand visual effects aside, the film is unified with an underlying statement about the horrors that may take place if we choose to the environment and everything and everyone we once held dear. The environmental message and a sober dose of humanity are where the strength of the film lies, inviting the audience to think and feel rather than scaring them silly in a hollow house of terror.